Sunday, January 29, 2012

A different type of prosecutorial misconduct

Typically, the more recent cases about prosecutorial misconduct we have discussed (and there have been many), have involved the duty to disclose information to the defense or issues related to improper arguments.  Here is a link to a new case from the Indiana Supreme Court that involves a different type of misconduct.  If I had to classify it, I'd place it under the notion of  "scope of representation and allocation of authority between client and lawyer," which is the title of Model Rule 1.2

The case is called In the Matter of Flatt-Moore and it involved a prosecutor who "surrender[ed] her prosecutorial discretion in plea negotiations entirely to the pecuniary demands of the victim of the crime."  In other words, she allowed the victim of the crime to dictate the terms of the plea agreement.  The court found that this conduct involved a prohibited conflict of interest and was prejudicial to the administration of justice.  The key to the case, though, was the fact that the terms of the plea were based on restitution of an amount that was higher than the amount of injury actually caused by the defendant.  The victim was trying to use the criminal process to obtain advantage in its civil claims against the defendant.  The prosecutor either did not realize this or knowingly tried to help the victim.

The court noted that although a victim is permitted to have significant input in the plea bargaining process, the  prosecutor engaged in misconduct by ceding to the victim absolute control of the negotiations concerning the plea.

Thanks to the Legal Profession blog for the information.

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