We all think and say it: images are worth a thousand words. The same is true when prosecuting a case. Prof. Bennett L. Gershman of Pace Law School, in his latest HuffPost piece titled Prosecutorial Misconduct Using Courtroom Technology, challenges the way some prosecutors put on their cases when using technology. He suggests that many increasingly cross the line when they use technology to suggest that “‘beyond reasonable doubt’ is really not that demanding” of a standard, when they use “visual trickery” to awaken an angry and emotional reaction out of jury, or when they sway juries by showing “misleading and prejudicial images” during their closing arguments.
Prof. Gershman states that
[a]lthough there’s nothing inherently wrong with using technology in the courtroom, more and more prosecutors cross the line by exploiting the power of technology to skew the way juries analyze the evidence, and thereby prejudice a defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Check it out and share your thoughts.
In a clear, well-reasoned decision, the DC Court of Appeals has held that a prosecutor’s ethical responsibility to disclose exculpatory evidence is significantly broader than the Brady standard and does not contain a “materiality” requirement. While the decision is binding only on attorneys who practice in DC it will cover many federal prosecutors.
The case came to the court based on a report and recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility that had recommended a 30-day suspension for a federal prosecutor who violated Rule 3.8(a) of the DC Rules of Professional Conduct. The charges arose in a felony assault case involving a drive-by shooting where the defendant filed an alibi notice. The issue was the reliability of the identification; significantly, what the prosecutor failed to disclose was that the victim had said after the shooting, at the hospital, was that he did not know who shot him. The first trial ended in a mistrial when the jury could not agree. Although after the first trial a subsequently assigned prosecutor revealed the statement, the second trial ended in a conviction.
Among his various arguments, Kline argued that his ethical obligation was co-extensive with his Brady obligation. The court soundly rejected this argument, and its explanation for why post-conviction materiality cannot be used to judge ethical conduct is notably clear and to the point. The court also surveyed the various conflicting decisions nationwide about whether the two standards are co-extensive. Meanwhile, because of a confusing sentence in the commentary to the DC rule, the court determined not to sanction the prosecutor.