Posted Jan 27, 2009 05:46 pm CST
The chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts has issued a 42-page ruling blasting the U.S. attorney there over an alleged pattern of violations by his office of a requirement that exculpatory evidence must be disclosed to the defense in criminal cases.
“The egregious failure of the government to disclose plainly material exculpatory evidence in this case extends a dismal history of intentional and inadvertent violations of the government’s duties to disclose in cases assigned to this court,” writes Chief Judge Mark Wolf in his Jan. 21 opinion. In it, he orders U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and an assistant prosecutor, Suzanne Sullivan (who are not related), to file affidavits by Feb. 5 explaining why she and/or the U.S. Attorney’s Office should not be sanctioned, reports the Boston Globe.
Although Wolf—who himself was a high-ranking prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office in the 1980s—complains of a pattern of violations he says he has personally witnessed by various prosecutors, his ruling concerns one case. In it, Suzanne Sullivan allegedly withheld from the defense information that a Boston police officer’s pretrial testimony differed from what he had repeatedly told her beforehand.
“Wolf said the truth about the circumstances of the arrest came to light only when he reviewed Sullivan’s notes of her interviews of the police officer, Rance Cooley,” the newspaper recounts. While that shows her failure to disclose was inadvertent, the judge writes, because she turned over her notes to him, it also shows that she is ignorant of or indifferent to her constitutional duty to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense.
In a statement yesterday, Michael Sullivan said that Suzanne Sullivan is a valued member of his staff, but that his office takes the evidence issue seriously and is reviewing the matter.