The video of oral argument before the 9th Circuit in Baca v. Adams is making the rounds, and it is certainly worth watching for anyone interested in lying prosecutors and what happens to them. Sidney Powell provides the story at the New York Observer.
In this case, the prosecution infected the case with false testimony–including by a prosecutor himself–over benefits given to a “cooperator” or a jailhouse “snitch.”
The entire program of “cooperation” is rife with problems. Prosecutors often put extraordinary pressure on the worst criminals, threatening not only them but their families. After completely terrifying the person who knows he will go to prison no matter what (because he really is guilty), the prosecutor then offers life-saving benefits, often secretly, in exchange for testimony against many less culpable “targets” of the government’s investigation.
Deputy District Attorney Robert Spira, who purportedly has given up the practice of law on his own to pursue a career as a pole dancer, wanted his conviction and, because he’s on the side of truth and justice, wasn’t too concerned about suborning perjury to get it.
Prosecutor Spira took the stand at the trial of the next defendant, Mr. Baca, to discuss Mr. Melendez’s plea deal. Prosecutor Spira testified that Mr. Melendez did not get any consideration in exchange for testifying against Baca. The California Court of Appeal found this to be untrue. Deputy District Attorney Paul Vinegrad was the prosecuting attorney in Mr. Baca’s case who put on mr. Melendez and his fellow prosecutor Mr. Spira as witnesses against Mr. Baca.
A magistrate and the California Court of Appeal found that California deputy district attorney Spira lied under oath, testifying against a criminal defendant and in support of a lying “jailhouse snitch” who was placed on the witness stand in apparent subornation of perjury. Making matters worse, the California Attorney General fought “tooth and nail” to keep the transcript of the relevant hearing from the California Court of Appeal.
After all, if prosecutors start to worry about truth and ethics, the whole system of convictions could collapse. Imagine what a disaster that would be. So watch the video to see how the circuit addresses it.
In the meantime, Judge Richard Kopf condemns the prosecutorial lying:
I am blessed to serve in a federal court with federal prosecutors who are by and large both smart and honest. Sure, there are some dolts, but at least they are honest idiots.
It is shocking proof that some state prosecutors are liars and some state prosecutors knowingly present liars as witnesses. To them, winning is everything.
Damn those state court prosecutorial scum. Thank the lord that nothing like that could ever happen in federal court, right
Ted Stevens? Well, at least it could never happen in a Nebraska federal courtroom, because there may be some dolts, “but at least they are honest idiots.”
It’s no longer deniable that it happens, but that doesn’t change the deniability of it ever happening right in front of our faces but we didn’t catch it. Or we didn’t want to catch it. Or we like those guys, so we just can’t bring ourselves to believe that they could do something so wrong. After all, people we like never do anything wrong.
Better to be an honest idiot than lying prosecutorial scum.
Update: An email from Brian Tannebaum raised a really good question (I know, but it can happen, blind squirrel and all): More than a week has passed since argument, and Judge Kozinski gave the AG a week, but there is no information available about what, if anything, happened within that week.
And so . . .
Via Will Baude, the state, by Supervising Deputy Attorney General Kevin Vienna, sought more time for “adequate deliberation” as it was “undergoing careful consideration,” as opposed to that really crappy consideration they go through before deciding whether to lie and suborn perjury. The Court granted the additional two weeks with the foreful final note that they state should “update” the court by January 29th of the “status of discussions.” Oh boy. They are really, really gonna name names if they don’t get updated.
Update 2: In a pseudonymous comment to Judge Kopf’s post, a person who says he’s been through the entire record on PACER and offers an argument that prosecutor neither committed nor suborned perjury, but that Judge Kozinski is on “a crusade,” and apparently the other two judges are incapable of disagreeing with him, all of whom are apparently inclined to assumed prosecutorial perjury when it was just an honest mistake.
Because you know how common it is to get a circuit judge on a crusade and a couple of others who are just along with the ride. If this was about the single instance of prosecutorial misconduct ever in the history of the world, this would be a more significant claim. But what makes this special is the video of oral argument, not the occurrence of impropriety.
That said, it appears that few of Judge Kopf’s readers have experienced such “perfidy.” Go figure. As a curious aside, I’ve had a grand total of 7 clickthroughs from Judge Kopf today. I suspect they may not care for my perspective nearly as much as his.
Update 3: Apparently, California caved and the Court quietly entered this order:
Respondent’s unopposed motion to summarily reverse the district court’s judgment is hereby GRANTED.
The judgment below is REVERSED. The district court is directed to enter an order granting a conditional writ of habeas corpus, releasing Baca from custody unless the state of California retries him within a reasonable period of time.
REVERSED and REMANDED. The mandate shall issue forthwith.
Not a word, nor a name, mentioning a prosecutor engaged in impropriety. Baca walks (or gets retried) and it never happened. Poof.