“A Minister of Justice”
The United States Attorney is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape nor innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor—indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.
Troy King succinctly states:
Prosecutors do not want someone held responsible for the crime; they want the criminal held responsible for the crime.
Now let us turn to the recently decided case State of Alabama v. Moore. (No link, because Alabama decisions are not available on the web, but if you have Westlaw access, the cite is 2006 WL 2035664). In that case, the following occured:
During the discovery phase of this trial, counsel for the Defendant made repeated requests for copies of statements and other documents in the possession of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Court ordered the prosecutor and the investigators to provide the Defendant’s attorney with copies of all documents in their possession of whatever kind relating to the murder of Karen Croft Tipton. Repeatedly, Investigator Mike Pettey and Prosecutors, Don Valeska and William Dill, denied the very existence of any reports or documents prepared or generated by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Court believed those representations made by the prosecution and took no further action to require the prosecution to produce the requested documents. This was done over the strenuous objections of counsel for the Defendant.
After the Defendant was tried and convicted, Don Valeska produced to the Court a copy of a five page document that was faxed to him from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Court then learned that Mr. Valeska had actual knowledge of this document prior to his fervent denial that any such documents or reports existed. . . .
Investigator Mike Pettey told Don Valeska prior to the trial of the case that he had sent questionnaires to various people connected to the case, had them fill out the questionnaires; and sent the information back to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. None of these materials were ever provided to the Defendant. Mr. Valeska did nothing prior to the commencement of the trial on November 4, 2002, to get a copy of this information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation or furnish it to the defense or inform the Court that he had discovered the documents existed.
“On October 30, 2002, the Court had hearings on motions filed by the defense requesting copies of information about an alleged Federal Bureau of Investigation report. On October 30, 2002, when questioned specifically by the Court regarding a Federal Bureau of Investigation report, Assistant Attorney General Don Valeska, said to the Court, ‘There ain’t no such thing as an FBI report.’
So Don Valeska, who is an Assistant Attorney General in Troy King’s office, lied to the court. In addition to the ideals I’ve quoted already, the Rules of Professional Conduct also have this to say:
A lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal.
We don’t need rules to know lying is wrong, but it is worse when a prosecutor does it, because prosecutors hold peoples lives in their hands. Mr. Moore was on trial for capital murder. The case was entirely circumstantial. The evidence concealed by Don Valeska undercut some of the state’s arguments. By lying to cover it up, Don Valeska tried to conceal the truth. He wanted a conviction, justice be damned.
In response to this despicable conduct, the trial court dismissed the case. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the dismissal and remanded for a new trial. That is probably the correct result. Don Valeska needs to be punished for his actions. But dismissing the case harms many more people than Don Valeska.
My suggestion? Disbarment. This man ought not to be practicing law.
If that is too much, then at the least Don Valeska ought to lose his current job. His actions have humiliated our profession, his office and the state. Never mind the additional costs of a new trial. If Troy King had any integrity whatsoever, Don Valeska would no longer work for his office, never mind continuing to work in his current position as Chief of the Violent Crimes Division.Explore posts in the same categories: Alabama Court Decisions, Capital Punishment, Trials