David Prater Gets It? and Just Say No to Stipulations
When two of his prosecutors got caught hiding Brady Material, Oklahoma County DA David Prater issued a press release, reading in part:
I recognize that this is not a one-time occurrence. There is no telling how many cases have been tainted by Pam Kimbrough and Stephanie Miller’s concealment of exculpatory evidence. There is no telling how many people have had unfair trials in this county because Pam Kimbrough and Stephanie Miller could not follow the simplest of rules. There is no telling how many people have pleaded guilty in this county because Pam Kimbrough and Stephanie Miller disregarded their Constitutional and ethical obligations. Pam Kimbrough has been in a leadership position with this office since I was elected in 2007. There is no telling whether other young lawyers have learned from her the wrong way to do things, nor whether defendants have pleaded guilty or lost at trial as a result. I have asked Chief Public Defender Robert Ravitz to arrange a continuing legal education program on the subject of prosecutorial ethics. Every lawyer in this office, including me, will attend, and will take it seriously. Until I am certain that the rot has been excised, no part of the state’s file in any case will be withheld from defense counsel. That is going forward, and that is the easy part. I also have an obligation to look back, and to try to correct any injustices that may have been done on my watch. I have brought in outside counsel to review all of this office’s cases for the last five years. There’s no way that they can do it alone. They will be contacting defense counsel on each case and asking that defense counsel review the State’s file in its entirety and advise if they believe that anything exculpatory was not timely revealed. Outside counsel will investigate any allegation that Brady material was withheld.
Wait. No, he didn’t. He fired Kimbrough and Miller and referred them to the AG for possible prosecution. Which is huge and unprecedented, don’t get me wrong, but only the tip of the iceberg for correcting the problem either prospectively or retrospectively. One might get the impression from reading Prater’s press release that this was a one-shot deal that Prater has taken care of, making the courthouse safe for the law-abiding people of Oklahoma County.
We know that’s not the case.
It doesn’t sound like the DA’s Office was the only agency to drop the ball here:
The joint investigation confirmed that the witness did make a statement to the assistant district attorneys that was materially inconsistent to his original statement made to the Oklahoma City Police Department…. The assistant district attorneys allowed defense counsel to stipulate to the witness’s testimony without including the subsequent inconsistent statement.
The defense stipulated to an inculpatory witness’s testimony? They allowed the government to present the testimony to the jury outside the crucible of cross-examination?
Even assuming that they had investigated properly and the witness had told the defense investigators the same story he had told the OKCPD, why would they have done that? If I were Oklahoma County Chief Public Defender Paul Ravitz, that’s what I’d be investigating next.
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