In the State of Kansas, all participants to a court action are sworn to do their utmost to seek the truth and administer justice. This concept is so deeply ingrained into the psyche of the citizens that many assume anyone charged is likely guilty. Media often reports on arrests and indictments as though justice had already been served. Instead of the traditional legal view that all are innocent until proven guilty, those indicted are judged guilty in the court of public opinion before the case ever gets to trial. This is unfair to everyone involved and undermines the basic tenets of the American justice system.
If you are the person charged or the victim of the crime, you have a vested interest in seeing that justice is truly served by the courts. Prosecutors traditionally want to be seen as tough on crime and successful in prosecuting the guilty. Unfortunately, the political realities of elected prosecutors sometimes lead to a tendency to provide only the facts that will support the prosecution’s arguments for conviction. This is against the law. It is likewise illegal for counsel for the defense to withhold evidence to protect their client except within strict parameters. Both prosecution and defense have a legal right to ALL evidence so that the rights of both parties are protected. The citizens of the State can then have a reasonable assumption that justice has been served.
Several recent court rulings, both in Kansas and the nation have brought exposure to the increasing tendency of one party or another to withhold evidence to win. In Kansas City, Judge Edith L. Messina recently ruled prosecutorial misconduct in recent cases for the third time, throwing out the guilty plea of a man convicted of abandoning a corpse. In Alaska, in the case of former Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, a federal judge set aside his conviction on federal corruption charges for the same reason. Although necessary and proper, in neither case did the abandonment of the conviction truly serve justice: the withholding of evidence can cause tainted cases to either remain unprosecuted or, in the case of Senator Stevens, destroy a high-profile career. Neither of these cases should have proceeded to conviction based on failure to present all evidence.
It appears there is an increase in this type of misconduct. Whether it is overcharging a criminal act in the hopes of providing bargaining power for a favorable plea or withholding evidence the defense needs to defend their client, prosecutorial misconduct of this sort seems to be growing. In such cases, not only the defendant is short-changed: the victim and society at large have not seen justice done. Such behavior threatens the entire judicial system we enjoy in the United States.
For this reason, competent and ethical legal representation for every court action is an absolute imperative. Legal counsel will address media inquiries to your best advantage, protecting your reputation and preventing the prosecution from tainting public opinion. As the defendant, you need to be confident that your legal representatives know how to ferret out any evidence the prosecution may be concealing. An experienced attorney knows how to make sure that over-charges are removed and that ALL evidence necessary to obtain justice is provided both your defense team and the judge or jury. Under the rules regarding discovery, your attorney will file the proper paperwork and enter the correct demands to make sure all evidence is provided the defense. In the case of a conviction, the process will have been put in place to protect your rights of appeal. True justice will be served.