Posted On: April 30, 2012 by Leifert & Leifert

Broward Criminal Defense Watch: The Ethics of Prosecutors & Judges

When mounting a Broward County criminal defense - regardless of the crime - criminal defense attorneys must trust that all parties, including police, prosecutors, jurors and judges, will act ethically. hammertofall.jpg

Unfortunately, we know that's not always going to be the case. That's why it's important when you hire an experienced defense attorney - someone who is able to call it out when they spot any violations of ethical and legal codes. Your freedom depends on it.

One such situation involved a death penalty cases and the relationship between a judge and a prosecutor.

In 2007, after the conclusion of a death-penalty murder trial, in which the defendant was convicted, it was discovered that the judge and prosecutor in the case exchanged nearly 500 text messages and 1,000 phone calls during the course of the case. While the two contend they never discussed the actual case, the issue went directly to their credibility, and ultimately, the integrity of the proceedings and the resulting verdict.

In the end, the conviction was overturned and the case tried again. The result was another conviction (although the defendant received life in prison, rather than the death penalty), but both the prosecutor and the judge face significant sanctions.

Following an investigation by the Florida Bar, a 10-page report was issued that indicated the two should have revealed that communication to the defendant's attorneys. The fact that they did not was "prejudicial to the administration of justice." The bar recommended a 1-year suspension of the prosecutor's license. He is reportedly now in private practice.

The prosecutor has two months to make an appeal, which he reportedly intends to do. The state's Supreme Court will make the ultimate decision.

As for the judge, she stepped down after the details of misconduct became public, and she also is now in private practice. She has a final hearing before the bar scheduled for next month. She may face even greater sanctions, given that the court holds her to an even higher standard of conduct.

What may also not work in her favor was that the state Bar has indicted the former judge took steps to mislead the Judicial Qualifications Commissions into thinking that her communication with the prosecutors was insignificant.

At the time of the trial, the pair were communicating outside the courtroom through texts and phone calls, an average of more than nine times daily.

While a number of people spoke as character witnesses on behalf of the prosecutor during his hearing, the Bar's 10-page report said none of that provided any insight into the misconduct.

Always do your research when looking to hire a Broward criminal defense attorney. Make sure he or she has a proven record not only of success, but also that he or she has a reputation for upholding the highest ethical standards. Failure to do so could be detrimental to your case.

If you are facing criminal charges in Broward or Palm Beach counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

Additional Resources:
Prosecutor-judge relationship warrants one-year suspension, Bar report says, By Tonya Alanez, Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:
Fort Lauderdale Plea Bargain Defense Addressed by Supreme Court Decision, March 26, 2012, Broward County Criminal Defense Attorney Blog