The Dallas Morning news is reporting that a former judge now running for Cook County District Attorney (on the Oklahoma border) committed prosecutorial misconduct during the murder trial of a man accused of raping women twenty years ago. Judge Mike Snipes concluded that the Court of Criminal Appeals should grant Clay Chabot a new trial because Janice Warder, the lead prosecutor in the case, failed to disclose information favorable to the defense that could have changed the jury’s verdict.
The 10-page finding said that Ms. Warder did not tell Mr. Chabot’s defense attorneys about inconsistent statements by his brother-in-law Gerald Pabst, whom DNA tests now show to be the rapist. The judge also said that Ms. Warder did not disclose discussions with another witness about her not being interested in prosecuting him for drug dealing.
Ms. Warder violated what is called “The Brady Rule“. This is a court ruling that requires the prosecution to turn over to the defense evidence which may be “exculpatory”(which may prove the defendant’s innocence) This was a court ruling in the 1963 Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland.
I admit that I have long since forgotten anything I learned about criminal law and procedure in law school and studying for the Texas Bar Exam. I also admit that anything I know about criminal law is as a result of watching re-runs of Law and Order and Law and Order SVU ad-naseum….. That makes it easy for me. When someone asks me for advice in the criminal law area, I simply research a particular Law and Order episode, tell the person when that episode will air and to watch it and send them a bill……. Well not really but I do know some attorneys who I would swear practice law that way…… Sure as hell beats going to the law library or paying for Lexis….. Law and Order comes with my basic cable so it saves me a hell of a lot of money in legal research…..
In any event, I digress…….
I was simply shocked that the article inferred that there was no administrative or criminal legal recourse against Ms. Warder for her conduct in the trial. I clearly recall a Law and Order episode entitled “Under The Influence” that dealt with this issue.
In this episode, Jack McCoy withheld the statement of a flight attendant whose testimony would have resulted in a lesser charge for person accused of murder by running over some people while drunk. He even encouraged her to leave the country during trial! There was clear implication in the show that this was prosecutorial misconduct and sanctionable….
Jack gets off the hook but hey I love Law and Order, don’t you?
Jack McCoy is my idol. Isn’t he yours? I have every episode ever broadcast Tivo’d. I am sure you do too. I think I could have bypassed law school and just watched Jack McCoy prepare and try cases. I would pass the bar and be the best trial attorney ever! Isn’t that what you did? I love Jack! He wins the great majority of his cases, and certainly all his rape cases! He withholds evidence from the defense and walks away without as much as a slap on the wrist! He lies to witnesses and defendants and it is okay! Jack makes inflammatory comments not supported by the evidence to the media and he is a hero for it! His trial arguments are often emotional and not based on any evidence, but no one objects and he gets the conviction!
Wait, there is a catch here. Sam Waterston, who plays Jack McCoy, is an actor – not an attorney. Sam Waterston, after committing all those terrible legal sins every episode, gets to go home to his wife and kids every night and read his script for his next episode.
Does anything happen to Janice Warden for her legal sins which in my book are no less egregious twenty years later?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating some “absolution” for guy on the receiving end of the misconduct….. If you read the article, he is clearly a bad guy and contrary to popular believe the ends often due justify the means.
What I am concerned about is the drunk driving rule which states for every time you get pulled over for drunk driving, you drove drunk up to 100 times without getting caught. (I can’t remember where I heard that) There has to be an innocent schmoe caught up in that math somewhere……
Maybe I am just naïve and Dallas Justice and justice everywhere is just like the Law and Order television show….
What am I missing here…..