Thursday, November 5, 2009

Iowa Immunity

A horrific example of prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa has now become a major legal debate before the U.S. Supreme Court.

From California to Wisconsin to Puerto Rico, the Rove Republican Racket's legion of U.S. Attorneys engaged regularly in prosecutorial misconduct to put political opponents in jail or falsely charge them with bogus crimes.

Yesterday, the nation's highest court heard the arguments on whether or not prosecutors who engaged in prosecutorial misconduct should be immune to lawsuits by their victims.

The Associated Press writes:

[U.S. Supreme Court justices] seemed frustrated at the thought that prosecutors could knowingly send an innocent person to prison — and then escape any repercussion by claiming that they were doing their job. The case in front of the high court involves two former Pottawattamie County, Iowa, prosecutors, Attorney Dave Richter and his assistant Joseph Hrvol. They are being sued by Curtis W. McGhee Jr., and Terry Harrington, who were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1978 for the death of retired police officer John Schweer. The men were released from prison after 25 years.

Evidence showed the prosecutors had failed to share evidence that pointed to another man, Charles Gates, as a possible suspect in Schweer's slaying. They later on denied that Gates was even a suspect, even though witnesses placed him near the scene of the crime and his name appeared in several police reports. He also was administered and failed a polygraph test and the prosecutors themselves even consulted an astrologer about their suspicions of Gates.

McGhee and Harrington filed lawsuits against the former prosecutors, saying as prosecutors Richter and Hrvol had them arrested without probable cause, coerced and coached witnesses, fabricated evidence against them and concealed evidence that could have cleared them. Richter and Hrvol argued, however, that they were immune from lawsuits because they were acting within the scope of their job. Federal courts, however, said the immunity did not extend to their work before the trial began and rejected their motions to dismiss the lawsuits.