The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asked if Kamala Harris when serving as California Attorney General, wanted to defend a conviction ‘obtained by lying prosecutors. The court said If Harris did not back off the case, the court would “name names” in a ruling that would not be “very pretty.”
The following appeared in a LA Times article:
“The hearing seemed largely routine until a state prosecutor approached the lectern.
Deputy Atty. Gen. Kevin R. Vienna was there to urge three judges on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold murder convictions against Johnny Baca for two 1995 killings in Riverside County. Other courts had already determined that prosecutors had presented false evidence in Baca’s trial but upheld the verdicts anyway.
Vienna had barely started his argument when the pummeling began.
Judge Alex Kozinski asked Vienna if his boss, Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris wanted to defend a conviction ‘obtained by lying prosecutors.’ If Harris did not back off the case, Kozinski warned, the court would “name names” in a ruling that would not be “very pretty.’ Emphasis provided.
‘It looks terrible,’ said Judge William Fletcher
In a series of searing questions, the three judges expressed frustration and anger that California state judges were not cracking down on prosecutorial misconduct. By law, federal judges are supposed to defer to the decisions of state court judges.
Prosecutors ‘got caught this time, but they are going to keep doing it because they have state judges who are willing to look the other way,’ Kozinski said. Emphasis added.
Baca was tried twice and found guilty both times. A state appeals court overturned the first verdict. The second withstood an appeal, even though the state court found the informant and a Riverside County prosecutor had given false testimony.
The informant falsely testified he had asked for and received no favors. The prosecutor falsely corroborated that on the stand, according to court records. Baca was sentenced to 70 years to life.
Patrick J. Hennessey Jr., who has represented Baca on appeal for nearly two decades, said he had never seen such an “egregious” case of prosecutorial misconduct.
‘That is what bothered me,’ Hennessey said. ‘There was never a fair discussion of how serious the issue was.’
A U.S. magistrate who next examined the case said Baca might not have been convicted of first-degree murder but for the false testimony. He said the federal court nevertheless was supposed to defer to the state courts.
‘Sadly, this informant’s lies were bolstered by a Deputy District Attorney, who also lied,’ wrote Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Walsh. ‘What is obvious … is that the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office turned a blind eye to fundamental principles of justice to obtain a conviction.’
Armed with the magistrate’s report, the three judges on the 9th Circuit panel appeared incredulous about the facts of the case.
Wardlaw, a Clinton appointee, complained that California’s courts were ‘condoning’ prosecutorial misconduct by upholding verdicts, a rare public criticism of her fellow judges. She suggested that state judges, who must be approved by voters, fear inciting the public’s wrath. Federal judges are appointed for life.
‘I understand why they do that,’ Wardlaw said. ‘They are elected judges. They are not going to be reversing these things.’
Fletcher, another Clinton appointee, observed that the state’s attorney general had fought “tooth and nail” more than a decade ago to prevent a court from seeing a transcript that revealed the false evidence.
‘It would look terrible in an opinion when we write it up and name names,’ Kozinski, a Reagan appointee, told the government lawyer. ‘Would your name be on?’
Vienna said he was not involved in the case at the time but named others in the office.
Kozinski demanded to know why the informant and the testifying prosecutor were not charged with perjury. He suggested the state bar should pull the law license of the prosecutor who presented the evidence.
Kozinski, who in the past has spoken out about an “epidemic” of prosecutorial misconduct, asked Vienna whether Harris was aware of the case. Vienna indicated she probably was not. Kozinski told him to get her attention within 48 hours. Harris would need to take action if her office wanted to avoid an embarrassing ruling, Kozinski said.
‘Make sure she understands the gravity of the situation,’ Kozinski said, adding that the case ‘speaks very poorly for the attorney general’s office.’
Harris, a candidate for U.S. Senate, changed course. Her office decided last week not to oppose Baca’s challenge (Emphasis added).
It will be Baca’s third trial.” Source: LA Times
We think the questions posed by this appellate court reflect badly on Harris’ character.