Tuesday, September 20, 2011
THE RISE OF JUDGE THORNTON
Before we begin, check out the previous post and our humble expanded explanation of the future of this blog.
Very quietly Judge John Thornton has made a swift and sure rise in his comparatively brief time on the bench, becoming first an administrative Judge in criminal court, and now, as our favourite federal blogger reports- being vetted for a spot on the Federal Bench!
With two new openings looming in the Southern District (Judge Gold taking senior status? and Judge Jordan's nomination to the 11th circuit) DOM broke the news that Judge Thornton and Magistrate Robin Rosenbaum were being vetted by white house lawyers for nominations to those seats.
The Broward JAA Blog had this nice write up on the reversal in Hendrix v. State- where a shockingly raw display of prosecutorial rage over a witnesses' anticipated testimony resulted in the Defendant receiving a new trial.
From the Opinion:
In the present case, the prosecutor not only implied but clearly stated that he intended to charge the witness if he testified at trial consistent with the witness’s sworn testimony at the pretrial deposition. Significantly, the state already had the sworn pretrial deposition in which Small admitted to his complicity in the delivery of the hydrocodone. The state could have charged Small regardless of whether he testified at appellant’s trial. Yet, the state only announced its intent to charge appellant’s witness if the witness testified at the trial consistent with his prior testimony at deposition, and that testimony exculpated appellant ...
We find that the prosecutor’s conduct in this case was an infringement of appellant’s due process rights ...
We also find the prosecutor’s statement in closing that if the detective “is a liar, acquit. If he’s not a liar, convict” to be improper. The prosecutor may not argue that the jury can convict for any reason “other than his guilt of the crimes charged.” ...
As Justice George Sutherland aptly stated:
[The goal of a prosecutor] in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor-indeed, he should do so.But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one. (emphasis added)
And just what was the charge the prosecutor threatened the witness with? Another twenty-five year min/man, of course, for his role in the same transaction involving fifty-seven pain pills the Defendant was on trial for. It doesn't get any worse than this, and there's no clearer illustration of why pill case min/mans have gotten such a bad name. By placing all discretion in the hands of unreasonable and irresponsible State Attorneys interested in convictions at all costs, justice has effectively been thrown out with the bathwater.