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Capital Defense Perjury


Kathleen Culhane was arraigned in Sacramento today on 45 counts of forgery, filing false documents, and perjury. She is accused of forging the signatures of jurors and witnesses to false affidavits in the cases of four California death row inmates, according to this report by Don Thompson of AP.

One of them was the notorious Michael Morales case. Morales murdered a 17-year-old girl 26 years ago. "San Joaquin County prosecutors triggered the state's investigation of Culhane after they produced statements from jurors who swore they had never spoken with her and supported the death sentence for Morales."

The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice intends to look at prosecutor misconduct on its next agenda. When are they going to look at defense misconduct?

Update: More coverage by Bob Egelko in the SF Chron, Louis Sahagun in the LA Times, and Scott Smith in the Stockton Record


It appears Ms. Culhane's attorneys are preparing for the "she did it because she hates the death penalty" defense. I am sorry, being a true believer should get her no lenience. She decided that her moral sensibilities were better than those of the people of California and that she had the right to thwart the people's right to justice. That arrogance should be reflected in her sentence, which ought to be very stiff--assuming, of course, the charges are true.

This sort of "ends justify the means" conduct seems to some to be commonplace amongst the post-trial capital defense bar. As noted by federalist, arrogance is a common personality trait in that crowd.

As the recent conduct of Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong demonstrates, the "ends justify the means" conduct cited by middleamerican is by no means limited to the post-trial capital defense bar. As per death penalty cases, we've seen a number of cases involving people ultimately freed from death row that involved prosecutorial misconduct. One of the most common forms of prosecutorial misconduct that we see involves witholding potentially exculpatory evidence from the defense.

Of course, this in no way excuses criminal behavior by anyone. The efforts of those of us who work to abolish the death penalty are harmed -- not helped -- when the rules are broken.

Point well taken.

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