Criminal Justice

Federal prosecutor is removed from criminal cases after allegations of witness pressure

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An assistant U.S. attorney in Kansas is no longer handling criminal cases after a federal judge criticized her conduct in a prosecution and noted that she apparently accessed recordings of attorney-client phone calls.

Terra Morehead has been removed from more than 20 criminal cases and reassigned to civil cases, the Kansas City Star reports here and here.

The job change followed a report by the the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The office did not identify Morehead as one of the subjects of its report, but its description appears to be referring to Morehead’s handling of the prosecution against drug defendant Gregory Orozco, according to the Kansas City Star.

Chief U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson of the District of Kansas had tossed Orozco’s conviction in December 2017 after finding that Morehead “substantially interfered” with a defense witness’s decision to testify in the case and was late in disclosing evidence, the newspaper reports.

The office of professional responsibility report, which used male pronouns to help maintain anonymity, found “poor judgment” but no wrongdoing.

The report said the prosecutor exhibited poor judgment “by failing to conduct himself in a more measured and less aggressive manner and by failing to more carefully consider whether it was necessary to convey to the witness’s attorney the potential consequences the witness might face should the witness not truthfully testify.”

In another case in which Robinson held the Kansas U.S. attorney’s office in contempt of court, the judge said Morehead was among the lawyers who failed to exclude attorney phone numbers when requesting recordings of inmate phone calls.

According to the Kansas City Star, Morehead’s career has been “dogged by controversy.”

The story says when she was a prosecutor in Wyandotte County, Kansas, she prosecuted Lamonte McIntyre, who was later exonerated and awarded $1.5 million in a lawsuit settlement, according to CNN.

The Kansas City Star describes allegations in a motion arguing that McIntyre did not commit the crime.

The defense lawyers said Morehead threatened to bring contempt charges against an eye witness and to have her children taken away if the did not testify. The motion also alleged that Morehead suppressed witness statements that McIntyre did not commit the crime.

Morehead did not immediately respond to the ABA Journal’s voicemail seeking comment.

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