WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT OUT-OF-CONTROL PROSECUTORS IN STEVENS COUNTY, WASHINGTON?

I would like to welcome a new guest writer, who is from the area,& has a better vantage of the comings & goings on in the Stevens County area. Hopefuly Jaz will help us fill in many more blanks!

An Expose by Yasmin Madjidi

Don’t re-elect them – it’s far too costly!

Government prosecutors, first and foremost, are lawyers who are, or should be, subject to the rules of professional conduct that apply to every lawyer in Washington State, with one caveat – the bar for assuring fairness and total truthfulness in proceedings is HIGHER, not LOWER for prosecutors.

Recent investigations across the U.S. have documented that misconduct by prosecutors is on the rise. Those excesses are often in flagrant violation of the very laws prosecutors are sworn to uphold. From Boston to L.A. to Seattle to Colville and all points in the middle, intense scrutiny reveals that our war on crime has become a war on the rights of U.S. citizens and our Bill of Rights.

The dark side of the war on crime is dawning – prosecutors who cheat, cut corners, who intentionally offer false testimony and fabricated evidence, conceal evidence of innocence from defense and the court, trample defendants’ rights, and the Constitution. The reason for this is not that winning is everything; it’s the ONLY thing to them! The winning at any cost attitude is not just a local problem in Stevens County, Washington. It’s occurring everywhere in courtrooms across the U.S.

But sadly it’s occurring in Stevens County, Washington as well. Under the current regime, war on crime is a war on the Bill of Rights. Prosecutors in Stevens County are known to sacrifice justice to win cases. Cases are being reversed at the appellate levels. This is expensive. Abuses by prosecutors at the local trial may include prosecutorial misconduct such as withholding of exculpatory evidence (evidence of innocence), tampering with evidence, suborning perjury, improper arguments, knowing use of false evidence, using snitches or witnesses who are known liars, ex parte contacts, leaking news to the media about pending cases to sway jury pools, altering the record, and so on. Unfortunately, many of these misdeeds go uncorrected at the trial level due to overworked Stevens County public defenders who do not have the resources nor the time to investigate properly.

Unfortunately for Stevens County victims of prosecutorial misdeeds, not enough bad prosecutors are brought to justice for breaking the laws in pursuit of “justice”. Most of us are aware of the power to cause injury by those in authority who abuse their positions. All we need do is look to Wenatchee, Washington to the child sex abuse witch hunt, and the wrongful arrests and prosecutions by a crusading officer. Some 60 kids were ripped from their families and 17 were adopted out.

Changes in federal sentencing laws in 1984-1986 gave prosecutors, not judges or juries, the exclusive power to choose who does time and who does not. Now it’s a prosecutor who determines a defendant’s sentence through charging decisions, or later on in a motion for sentence review. Consequently, a Stevens County, Washington prosecutor a few years out of law school, rather than a judge with years of experience, may be the one with a life in his hands, or deciding who goes to jail and for how long. This kind of “heady” power over people’s lives leads to what I call a “god complex” and myopia, wherein a prosecutor is out of control having lost all perspective.

A “win at all costs” mentality resulted in the reversal in United States v. Berger (295 U.S. 78 (1935)). This same mentality is found all over state and federal courts. Prosecutors and cops lie, hide evidence, distort facts, engage in cover-up, pay for perjured testimony, and set up innocent people. It is a never ending effort to “win” indictments, guilty pleas or convictions. Stevens County is no stranger to the victims of this conduct. Sometimes the victims lose their jobs, assets, and even families. Some remain in jail or prison because prosecutors withheld favorable evidence, or encouraged fabricated testimony even perhaps from persons with a history of previously lying on the record. But that may never be disclosed to defense. Some criminals are hailed as heros or do-gooders, and walk away as a reward for conspiring with cops or prosecutors in their efforts to “win”, while denying others their lawful rights. Stevens County is a small tight knit community. Citizens know about these victims of the system.

Cops and prosecutors in Stevens County may pursue justice by breaking the laws in the relentless battle to “win”. Strong words? Perhaps. The philosophy of the current regime in Stevens County seems to be that whatever works is what is right – no matter the cost to the good citizens in Stevens County, Washington.

What if there aren’t any big crimes going on in the County – the kind of crimes that make for news headlines, promotions, fodder for blogs, and re-elections?

Prosecutors and police in Stevens County have a ready-made solution to that problem — go out and make a big crime and generate the headlines. “Build it and they will come” – the wins, that is.

An attitude of authorities in Stevens County that is far more prevalent than the average person is aware of is contacting witnesses and potential cooperating defendants – without their lawyers present. Stevens County authorities consider this a valid tactic even though justice guidelines discourage it, and it’s considered a violation of the professional code of ethics in every state. To compound this, there is no room in the Stevens County jail house that is safely sound proof so that a defendant may speak freely with his attorney without eavesdropping by jail staff – who then report to the prosecutor, sheriff, or other supervisor.

Pro se defendants in Stevens County, Washington are also obstructed by jail staff from using the Stevens County law library to represent themselves so that they can exercise their legal rights. Jailers schedule various daily and evening meetings in the very same conference room where the law library is located. Pro se defendants then cannot use the law library during most days and evenings. This is also unlawful but a custom and practice in the Stevens County, Washington jail.

Prosecutors in Stevens County have a weighty responsibility. Unfortunately under the current regime, some may take it lightly. They might feel that the person sitting in the defendant’s chair is guilty. But that person still deserves justice and a fair trial by not being convicted by prosecutorial misconduct. It is equally deplorable when a truly guilty person is unlawfully convicted because of the resulting effect on the victim, his family, and the system. Sometimes the State has a truly good case against the defendant, but it may end up later reversed, ruined by ego and overreaching misconduct.

In Stevens County, Washington, prosecutors get all the money they need including government grants to hire experts, investigators, etc. to secure a “win”. The overworked public defenders in the Stevens County contract system work for the defendants, who are the working poor or the indigent. Some of the Stevens County contract lawyers have never defended a felony case, while a few have never had much, if any, jury trial experience when they signed up. The court appointed lawyers in Stevens County may even have to use their own personal credit cards to pay for experts, investigators or trial exhibits, as they are given little or no money to defend the client by Stevens County judges. The prosecutor gets it all. The flat rate policy that is customary under the Stevens County public defender contract results in very minimal representation for poor defendants who only get moments of a public defender’s time – usually at the time of a hearing. Such a policy tends to encourage prosecutors and contract defenders to “broker” cases, and fosters an otherwise “incestuous” relationship between prosecutors and defenders. (In other words, don’t tell your public defender anything you don’t want the prosecutor to know).

Also unfortunate is that many players in the Stevens County, Washington system including cops, judges, defense lawyers, and other prosecutors are good people, and quite aware this stuff happens. However, most are willing to turn a blind eye – perhaps feeling that’s how it works, or that it’s okay to bend the truth sometimes when you are going for a “ greater good”. If a young prosecutor speaks up and challenges the regime, he may be sent packing.

Twisted sense of justice? Yes. Citizens certainly don’t need crusaders in Stevens County who believe that the means justifies the end for the “greater good”, and that “winning” is all that matters. It is expensive for each of the hard working citizens in Stevens County – in more ways than one.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not of the mindset that it is the civic duty of any innocent man to give up his rights and go to jail so the guilty man won’t go free.

I know it’s close to fire season, but the scorched smell is not from burning woods or fields in Stevens County this year, or a homemade bomb. I believe it’s our own Constitution.

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