Criminal Procedure

NYT: Prosecutorial Misconduct a 'Legal Sore in Plain Sight'

In recently disclosed witness protection records, information has surfaced that New York prosecutors paid the hotel bill of a key homicide witness for months, despite testimony to the contrary.

Yet after a decade-long records battle and with the help of a private investigator, the defendant Petros Bedi—who is serving more than 42 years for a fatal Astoria nightclub shooting—confirmed the payment and is hoping to leverage it for a new trial.

Indeed, the district attorney’s office in Queens reportedly paid the witness against Bedi more than $16,000 for hotel bills, plus $3,000 in cash, with the last payment arriving six days before testimony, according to the New York Times. None of this was disclosed to the defense, the filing by Bedi’s new lawyer Joel Rudin claims. Prosecutors tell the Times that they intend to dispute the allegations and that, at the time, they believed the witness was in danger.

Citing a string of cases involving prosecutorial misconduct over the last 10 years, the Times piece concludes that “Prosecutorial misconduct has become a legal sore in plain sight.”

The paper quotes from a controversial column written by criminal defense lawyer Marvin Schechter, who chairs the criminal justice section of the New York State Bar Association.

In his column, he wrote that “Assistant district attorneys do not emerge from law school with a genetic disposition to hiding Brady material. Instead this is something which is learned and taught.”

The column enraged prosecutors, many of whom have written letters disputing the implication that they not only tolerate misconduct, but teach it.

In a letter to the state bar posted by the New York Law Journal, the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York wrote that the organization “condemns these sentiments in the strongest possible terms. The letter went on to ask the state bar to clarify that Schechter’s column “is not the official position of our statewide bar association that district attorneys are teaching their assistants to violate the constitution.”

For more:

Simple Justice: “Brady War Breaks Out In New York”

New York Criminal Law Newsletter (PDF): “Message from the Chair: The Brady Dilemma”

New York Law Journal: “‘Brady’ Obligations” (Letters to the editor)

New York Law Journal: D.A.s Challenge Claim by Bar Section Head They Undermine ‘Brady’

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