The Justice Department is once again being threatened with contempt of court after United States District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan found that they withheld evidence from the defense that a witness in a “significant” number of cases was mentally disturbed. Judge Sullivan found that the testimony of the detainee was unreliable, could be challenged in other cases, and could be the basis for a possible contempt order against the government.
In the wake of the Stevens case, this ruling in the case of Aymen Saeed Batarfi, a Yemeni doctor, received little attention. However, like Stevens, the Justice Department has announced that it would no longer seek to detain the doctor. As in Stevens, the move appears to protect the Justice Department from further judicial inquiry over the misconduct of government officials and, also like the Stevens case, there is no indication that the responsible officials will be disciplined or fired.
In the hearing, Sullivan stated “To hide relevant and exculpatory evidence from counsel and from the court under any circumstances, particularly here where there is no other means to discover this information and where the stakes are so very high . . . is fundamentally unjust, outrageous and will not be tolerated . . . How can this court have any confidence whatsoever in the United States government to comply with its obligations and to be truthful to the court?”
Judge Sullivan refused to allow the government to continue to play games with the system and called its actions “still another ploy . . . to continue with his deprivation of his fair day in court.” He ordered review of the case every 14 days and threatened to impose a contempt sanction if the Justice Department continued to violate federal rules.
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