How many more stories are we going to have to read about innocent men and women being released from prison after serving two decades or more because prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory evidence at trial? How many more lives are we going to allow to be ruined because prosecutors are more interested in winning a case than they are in getting it right? And I'm not just talking about the wasted years of the innocent man - I'm talking about the enormous cost to his family.
Jonathan Fleming was convicted of the 1989 murder of Darryl Rush in Brooklyn. For more than two decades he missed every birthday, wedding, graduation and funeral for his family and friends. Those are 24 years of wasted memories that he can never get back.
When Mr. Fleming was accused of the murder he told the police he was in Florida. A review of the file revealed that the police had a hotel receipt from the day of the shooting and a note from the Orlando Police Department that hotel employees remembered seeing him that day.
Those items were never turned over to Mr. Fleming's attorneys. Despite his protestations, Mr. Fleming was convicted.
Even after a witness admitted to lying on the stand after the conviction, prosecutors continued to defend the conviction.
Mr. Fleming's conviction was overturned as the result of a review of questionable convictions from the Kings County District Attorney's Office. But for that investigation by the Conviction Review Unit, Mr. Fleming might still be behind bars today.
Mr. Fleming has announced that he will sue everyone he can for the injustice he was forced to endure for almost a quarter-century. But all the money in the world can never give him back the thing he lost - time.
As for the prosecutors who tried the case, the only appropriate remedy is disbarment. What they did was so reprehensible there is a special ring in Dante's hell for them. To the ADAs who handled Mr. Fleming's case, he was nothing but a case number. I'm sure they tossed out numbers to his attorneys like they were candy. What the hell, it's not like it would affect them one little bit. Close out one case and pick up the next one.
They betrayed their oath of office. They betrayed their oath to uphold the law and the constitution. They betrayed their profession. They betrayed themselves. They are scum and they don't deserve to call themselves lawyers anymore. Until we decide to put some teeth into Brady and our criminal discovery statutes, this will continue to happen. Until courts decide to impose sanctions on prosecutors who play hide-the-sausage with exculpatory evidence, this will continue to happen.
The other day Scott Greenfield wrote about a judge who did just that when he found out that a prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence. Of course his sanction - banning the prosecutor from his courtroom - wasn't nearly harsh enough.
And still they went on practicing law like nothing happened. It didn't bother them that an innocent man was sitting in prison because they didn't hand over exculpatory evidence to the defense. It's not like they even gave a fuck that the evidence didn't support their theory of the case.
And let's take a wild guess at what kind of testimony it was that led to Mr. Fleming's wrongful conviction -- could it possibly have been eyewitness testimony? Isn't that another link with most of the publicized exoneration cases? In many cases it was the DNA evidence that proved innocence after eyewitness testimony put them behind bars.
While we should take pleasure in Mr. Fleming's exoneration, we can never forget that this incident serves as yet another indictment of our criminal (in)justice system.