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.