Evidence Of Prosecutorial Misconduct In Casey Anthony Trial

Even if Casey Anthony had been convicted, there's a good chance she would have won on appeal.

Even if Casey Anthony had been convicted in the death of her daughter, it looks like she would have a ready-made issue for appeal:

Assertions by the prosecution that Casey Anthony conducted extensive computer searches on the word “chloroform” were based on inaccurate data, a software designer who testified at the trial said Monday.

The designer, John Bradley, said Ms. Anthony had visited what the prosecution said was a crucial Web site only once, not 84 times, as prosecutors had asserted. He came to that conclusion after redesigning his software, and immediately alerted prosecutors and the police about the mistake, he said.

The finding of 84 visits was used repeatedly during the trial to suggest that Ms. Anthony had planned to murder her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, who was found dead in 2008. Ms. Anthony, who could have faced the death penalty, was acquitted of the killing on July 5.

According to Mr. Bradley, chief software developer of CacheBack, used by the police to verify the computer searches, the term “chloroform” was searched once through Google. The Google search then led to a Web site, sci-spot.com, that was visited only once, Mr. Bradley added. The Web site offered information on the use of chloroform in the 1800s.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office had used the software to validate its finding that Ms. Anthony had searched for information about chloroform 84 times, a conclusion that Mr. Bradley says turned out to be wrong. Mr. Bradley said he immediately alerted a prosecutor, Linda Drane Burdick, and Sgt. Kevin Stenger of the Sheriff’s Office in late June through e-mail and by telephone to tell them of his new findings. Mr. Bradley said he conducted a second analysis after discovering discrepancies that were never brought to his attention by prosecutors or the police.

Mr. Bradley’s findings were not presented to the jury and the record was never corrected, he said. Prosecutors are required to reveal all information that is exculpatory to the defense.

“I gave the police everything they needed to present a new report,” Mr. Bradley said. “I did the work myself and copied out the entire database in a spreadsheet to make sure there was no issue of accessibility to the data.”

Mr. Bradley, chief executive of Siquest, a Canadian company, said he even volunteered to fly to Orlando at his own expense to show them the findings.

Cheney Mason, one of Ms. Anthony’s defense lawyers, said it was “outrageous” that prosecutors withheld critical information on the “chloroform” searches.

“The prosecution is absolutely obligated to bring forth to the court any and all evidence that could be exculpatory,” Mr. Mason said. “If in fact this is true, and the prosecution concealed this new information, it is more than shame on them. It is outrageous.”

If these allegations are true, then it would seem to be a clear violation of the prosecutions duty under Brady v. Maryland and subsequent cases to turn over all exculpatory evidence to the defense. Courts are generally pretty strict about this, ruling that a prosecutor isn’t permitted to base a decision to turn over evidence on whether they think it would be exculpatory, but on whether a reasonable person could find it to be exculpatory. As William Jacobson and Greg Pollowitz have both noted, this appears to be a major screw-up by the prosecution. Had there been a conviction on the murder or less-included charges, reversal on appeal and a new trial would seem to have been a likely outcome. Even without the conviction, prosecutors aren’t necessarily out of the woods, they could be subject to a civil suit or State Bar sanctions for violation of ethical duties.

This is why we have an adversarial process, and why it’s better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man go to prison. Or as Justice Douglas put in Brady:

We now hold that the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.

The principle of Mooney v. Holohan is not punishment of society for misdeeds of a prosecutor, but avoidance of an unfair trial to the accused. Society wins not only when the guilty are convicted, but when criminal trials are fair; our system of the administration of justice suffers when any accused is treated unfairly. An inscription on the walls of the Department of Justice states the proposition candidly for the federal domain: “The United States wins its point whenever justice is done its citizens in the courts.”  A prosecution that withholds evidence on demand of an accused which, if made available, would tend to exculpate him or reduce the penalty helps shape a trial that bears heavily on the defendant. That casts the prosecutor in the role of an architect of a proceeding that does not comport with standards of justice, even though, as in the present case, his action is not “the result of guile,” to use the words of the Court of Appeals. 226 Md. at 427, 174 A.2d at 169.

Anyone want to bet on whether Nancy Grace will be doing a story on this apparently violation of Casey Anthony’s Constitutional rights tonight?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. lunaticllama says:

    Good thing the Supreme Court protected prosecutors under Connick. That ruling ensures that prosecutors can do what’s need, i.e. hide exculpatory evidence. We wouldn’t want those prosecutors to be exposed to civil liability for trying to throw innocent people in jail.

    *end snark*

  2. @lunaticllama:

    Yes I wrote about the Connick case here.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @lunaticllama: took the words right out of my mouth.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I know you did Doug, which is why I wondered that you said:

    Even without the conviction, prosecutors aren’t necessarily out of the woods, they could be subject to a civil suit

    which, I suppose is technically true, but ken Hulshoff isn’t going to pay any price for his misdeeds.

    Critics say that Hulshof’s record reflects a lawyer who crossed the line from zealous representative of the people to a politically ambitious prosecutor willing to bend the rules for the sake of a conviction.

    Of course, he differs:

    “The tension of the system working is that you have an aggressive defense attorney, and you have a tough but fair prosecutor,” he said. “And once you walk into the courtroom … you have equal adversaries presenting a case to a jury. The judge is the referee. And then whatever the jury says is justice.”

    Myself, when 4 out of 8 death penaly convictions are overturned on appeal because of prosecutorial misconduct ( I mean “mistakes”)

    If one googles Ken hulshoff prosecuter you will find a long trail of chaos and devastation in his wake.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I tried to edit for punctuation, but was denied “permission”…. whatever for?

  6. Shauna says:

    But its no big deal for baez to blatantly make up lies & throw innocent people under the bus to protect alleged baby killer? Im tired of hearing about how it has to be fair for the guilty. What about crucial evidence left out that would have sent her straight to hell where she belongs?! It wasnt fair for the innocent 2 yr old to be murdered!

  7. PD Shaw says:

    Does anybody really think the prosecution would not have gone forward if they turned over the Brady material? She was convicted of lying about the death of her daughter. There was evidence that she killed her daughter, just not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

  8. Anyone want to bet on whether Nancy Grace will be doing a story on this apparently violation of Casey Anthony’s Constitutional rights tonight?

    Oh please, she still refuses to admit there was anything wrong with her attempt to railroad the Duke Lacrosse team.

    @Shauna:

    Im tired of hearing about how it has to be fair for the guilty.

    It has to be fair for the accused, although I realize all you amateur Judge Dredd’s out there are incapable of comprehending the distinction.

  9. Kevin says:

    Doug, great article. I just posted similar information on a much smaller scale and it is great seeing others bringing the software glitch and the potential misconduct to light. Kudos to you on a great blog!