Stop Government Trial Lawyers' Misconduct
Join the Coalition Against Prosecutorial Abuse (CAPA)
TUESDAY, AUGUST 12
Americans For Tax Reform • 1920 L. St. Suite 200 • Washington
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Kathryn Serkes: • 202.333.3855 • firstname.lastname@example.org
There's still one group of trial lawyers that has been left alone to go about their dirty work with few restrictions — and all at taxpayers' expense.
These are the government prosecutors who abuse their positions to further their careers while spending your money.
They use high-publicity cases involving the hot "drug du jour" such as OxyContin, or celebrities such as Martha Stewart, as career stepping stones on the backs of the defendants, rather than to serve the public or justice.
A recent study by the Center for Public Integrity found that prosecutors stretched, bent or broke rules so badly in more than 2,000 cases since 1970 that appellate judges dismissed criminal charges, reversed convictions or reduced sentences.
And that's just in the cases that went to trial -- about 95 percent of defendants plead guilty without a trial. And it's in that pre-trial period that the misconduct is the most hidden, but the most abusive, including legal extortion.
This is a taxpayer issue, a privacy issue, a civil liberties issue and free market issue.
Aside from concerns about individual civil liberties as a potential defendant, the impact is felt throughout the country and various industries — privacy (medical records and other personal files are fair game in these fishing expeditions), patient's access to medical care, the ability to market a legal product without fear of legal action. And the targets are usually white-collar, professionals or blue-collar, foreign-born — both groups who make easy targets because they don't fight back the way real criminals do.
The situation became so blatant that at one point the DOJ issued a memo to U.S. Attorneys to back off on prosecutions. But it didn't help much, and the legacy of abuse continues.
And now with expansion of definition of "domestic terrorism" in the Patriot II Act, more citizens will become targets.
Prosecutors' Dirty Tricks
Defendants are held without trial — sometimes for years — through various means. These stalling tactics are a favorite trick to bring defendants to their knees. They know the longer the charged goes without being able to earn a living while the legal fees mount, the better the chances are that the poor guy will make a bad deal just to bring the nightmare to an end. A St. Louis dentist sits in prison for more than five years waiting trial on fraud charges that carry only about 4 years sentence.
Dozens of sometimes unrelated charged are piled on in the hope that the frightened defendant will plead guilty to something to make most of the charges "go away."
Drug-dependent patients are arrested, then promised drugs if they will testify against a doctor. Psychiatric patients are threatened with involuntary confinement, addled geriatric patients coached to change stories.
In other cases, prosecutors have withheld exculpatory information, or used other ethically-challenged tactics such as making inflammatory remarks before a jury, or "mischaracterizing" evidence.
We must end this abuse through public education and judicial reforms. We have some courageous former prosecutors and defendants who are willing to tell their stories.
Through a broad-based coalition, we will be able to accomplish these goals. We are planning a Congressional briefing, and have interest in hearings.
Join the other companies, professional associations, think-tanks and grassroots organizations in our coalition.
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