The Daily News reports that Bronx Criminal Court Judge John Wilson dismissed a rape charge. The defendant was cut loose.
The defendant, Segundo Marquez, had been held at Rikers Island for more than eight months awaiting trial on reduced misdemeanor rape charges stemming from a 2010 incident.
And then, it was gone. The reason, however, is not so easily dismissed. It wasn’t until summation at Marquez’s trial that all hell broke loose.
The two week-long trial had reached closing arguments when one of Teesdale’s supervisors informed the judge about a note on the case file referring to the contradictory testimony.
The prosecutor trying the case, Megan Teesdale, got caught.
Teesdale, who has worked for Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson since 2012, failed to inform the court that Marquez’s accuser, who testified at trial that she had been raped, initially told an NYPD sergeant that the sex was consensual.
The Daily News includes a portion of the transcript of Judge Wilson dismissing the case, and there is language in there directed at how this came to happen. It’s described by the News as a “faux pas.” It was no faux pas. As the judge says, Teesdale lied.
“The excuse you offer, passing the file back and forth, no one looking and no one knowing what anything is, saddens me on one level and makes me sick on another,” Wilson said as he chastised Teesdale before the court. “You’re going to leave this room, and you’re never going to come back.”
No doubt the court’s condemnation will strike different people differently, and the part that struck home with me was this:
I recall the Defense asking before the trial started for any notes that the People had in their possession, and you blithely said, “No, we don’t have any notes.” It turned out, unfortunately, to be a lie.
“Blithely” is such a good description, as this question is asked before every trial, just as the demand for Brady material is included in every omnibus motion. And is blithely dismissed. And is blithely accepted by judge after judge, court after court. Blithely is a very good word indeed.
At the same time, Judge Wilson loosens his stranglehold just enough for his own comfort.
For my own peace of mind, I absolutely refuse to believe that you did this on purpose. However, it is gross negligence on your part to have no found this information, and turned it over to the defense….
It may relieve the court of the discomfort of reality, but then, that’s why baby prosecutors like Teesdale can respond so blithely. You see, new prosecutors want desperately to win at trial, and pore over every detail, every word, in preparation. They want to make their bones. They want to show their fellow prosecutors that they have the right stuff. They do not want to lose, and they don’t neglect to read the police reports. Every single one of them. I call bullshit.
On the bright side, Judge Wilson not only outed the offending prosecutor, and barred her from ever appearing in his courtroom again, but her supervisor disclosed the Brady material before verdict. It’s not much, but compared to deep-sixing the Brady, it’s huge.
In imposing the sanction of exile, Judge Wilson seeks to make a point that has been made here and elsewhere with some regularity.
Here are you sanctions: You’re going to leave this room, and you’re never going to come back. You can’t appear before me anymore. I’ll tell you why, because I cannot trust anything you say or do. I can’t believe you. I can’t believe your credibility anymore. The only thing a lawyer ever has to offer is their integrity and their credibility, and when you’ve lost that, there is no purpose in your appearing before this Court.
But there is a lingering question. Was Megan Teesdale an outlier, a rogue prosecutor who saw the words that would destroy her case and made the decision, on her own, to deny its existence? Was she a flaming incompetent prosecutor, the only baby prosecutor not to read the police reports in preparation for trial? Or is this a reflection of the culture that Marvin Schechter wrote about when the Brady War broke out in New York.
While I have no sympathy for Teesdale, who most assuredly deserves the ruination of her legal career, the words of her blithe response still ring in my ears, because they are the same words uttered by every prosecutor ever.
And let’s not forget that Segundo Marquez spent eight months on the rock because some judge set bail he was incapable of making, because a prosecutor at the outset of this case, when there was nothing to go on except police reports, including the same one that gave rise to Teesdale’s banishment, that stated the “victim” said sex was consensual. No, this is not just about Teesdale. Not by a long shot.