As complex as some legal considerations are, others are fundamentally simple.
And few things could be simpler than the judicial admonition that both sides in a criminal case play fair.
That means no intentional misrepresentations. And it means no unlawful withholding of relevant evidence from opposing counsel.
Reportedly, a federal government prosecutorial team violated both those tenets in a recent matter focused upon alleged rioters who created public disturbances in Washington, D.C., during last year’s presidential Inauguration Day festivities.
Those individuals – seven defendants in all – were slated for trials until last week, when a judge summarily dropped a proverbial bomb on the prosecution.
To wit: he dismissed all cases against them featuring conspiracy-to-riot charges, precluding those claims from being reinstated later. And he also dismissed additional rioting charges against the defendants. Although the court left a window open for government lawyers to potentially refile the rioting claims, prosecutors opted to drop the cases.
The sudden courtroom twist owed to the judge’s expressed ire with prosecutorial tactics. The court pointed to a government lawyer’s repeated assertions that a single videotape was in the prosecution’s possession and timely turned over to the defense. It turned out that 68 additional tapes/recordings also existed that prosecutors knew of and opted to keep from defense scrutiny.
Such withholding of material evidence violates bedrock American law, and the court was not in a conciliatory mood.
Behavior that undermines impartiality and fairness in any criminal law matter can never be condoned, given the life-altering stakes that are often in play for defendants. Passionate and proven defense attorneys will always fight with absolute determination to ensure a fair playing field and a rigorous adherence to the rule of law.