Friday, October 23, 2009

Harris County prosecutor accused of hiding exculpatory evidence

Harris County Assistant District Attorney Denise Oncken was accused by defense attorneys of hiding Brady material in a child sexual assault case. Ms. Oncken is the chief of Harris County's Crimes Against Children division.

According to defense attorney Bill Stradley, Ms. Oncken hid evidence that the alleged victim originally said her assailant was black, not white.

First Assistant District Attorney Jim Leitner, a former defense attorney until his appointment by Pat Lykos, denied the allegations. Mr. Leitner also added that even though defense attorneys ask to review prosecutors' files -- they often only spend a fraction of the time that he thinks it should take to process the data.

Obviously Mr. Stradley spent enough time reviewing the file to locate the evidence that the state failed to disclose.

A hearing on the matter was scheduled for today.


At today's hearing, Visiting State District Judge Van Culp ruled that the prosecutor should have turned over the information about the alleged victim's original identification. The judge then ruled that because the information was discovered prior to trial that a mistrial was not warranted.


Jim Woodward said...

This is a dilemma I have much difficulty dealing with - if Brady material is turned up by the defense prior to trial, there's no adverse consequences for the prosecutor - no harm, no foul. If it's never discovered, no penalty either. Only when the defense can make a case for active concealment or when there's an agressive investigation for appeal is there any real chance to deal with the prosecutorial misconduct.
How often do those happen?

Of course, prosecutors are supposed to "do justice" and chiefs should make sure Brady is observed, but I'm cynical enough to think in a system that keeps won-lost records for individual prosecutors doing the right thing is the exception rather than the rule.

Rage Judicata said...

If it's never discovered, no penalty either.

Can you give me an example where there was a penalty to a prosecutor? In every instance I've ever read about the prosecutor gets a free pass, no matter how egregious the Brady violation and no matter how long the defendant sat in jail.

Hell, they even get to sleep with the judge!

Anonymous said...

The only two prosecutors come to mind when thinking about the ones who took a hit for nefarious actions in prosecuting people: Terry McEachern (Tulia) and Mike Nifong (Duke Lacrosse).

Anonymous said...

How many felony trial cases have you tried to verdict, Mr. K? How many of those were child sex abuse cases?

Just curious, even though you won't respond.

Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy, said...

Mr. Anonymous No. 2 -- the internet makes it easy to talk up a big game behind a mask of anonymity. If you really had the courage of your convictions you would post your comments under the name your momma gave you.

Until you do that, you're nothing but a blowhard.