An organization called Alaskans for Justice is holding a rally today to call for the passage of legislation promoting greater discovery in federal criminal cases. The group is also demanding the firing of two prosecutors and an FBI agent whose conduct was attacked in a special counsel's report on prosecutorial failings in the bungled Ted Stevens prosecution.
Greater understanding of matters referenced at the rally will come from reading two blog posts by experienced lawyers who have worked as federal prosecutors and white collar criminal defense attorneys.
The first is by Michael Volkov, who says "There is no question that mistakes were made in the Stevens case, but the Schuelke-Shields report ignores too many facts, inconsistent evidence and the surrounding managerial dysfunctions to carry much weight." Volkov contends that "In many respects, the Schuelke-Shields report is guilty of the same conduct it complains about in the Stevens case."
Observing that the special counsel's report "appears to be guided by a predetermined political result," Volkov even suggests that the report's conclusion that no charges of criminal contempt of court should be brought was a way to protect a flawed process by insulating the findings from being tested in court.
Solomon Wisenberg, on the other hand, focuses on the practical lessons to be gained from the special counsel's report.
Four of Wisenberg's nine points in his post dated March 27 are:
Compost flows downhill....
If I am an experienced prosecutor and supervisor and agree to take over and lead the prosecution team a few days prior to the Indictment, I need to lead that team and take responsibility for my actions and the team's actions....
If I am prosecuting a white collar case involving hundreds of FBI 302s [forms the FBI uses to summarize witness interviews] and I don't hand them over to the defense before trial AND I am going up against a United States Senator who is represented by a highly skilled law firm known for its tenacious tactics, I am a fool. I deserve what I get. But the people who work for me don't necessarily deserve what they get....
If four prosecutors and one case agent interview the key prosecution witness three months before Indictment, and the interview goes poorly, AND no 302 is generated, people aren't going to think well of them. This is especially true if the FBI Special Agent later admits that no 302 was written because, "the debriefing...did not go well," and the prosecutors completely forget about the interview and the Brady information gleaned during it.