Lawsuit Details Alleged Prosecutorial Misconduct In New York Murder Case

We often discussed the lack of deterrent for prosecutorial misconduct in the United States. When cases are overturned due to destruction or withholding of evidence or other violations, few reporters track down the original prosecutors to hold them accountable. Prosecutors are rarely punished for such acts. The article below in the New York Times details a shocking example of alleged misconduct and the lack of action by the Queens District Attorney in dealing with what appears gross violations by prosecutors in the office.

The case from 2000 involves Petros Bedi who was convicted of killing a man at a nightclub and given a sentence of 42 1/2 years in prison. The key witness was Seraphim Koumpouras who looked like another purchased snitch. Prosecutors often hand out deals to inmates or arrested individuals to testify in cases. These witnesses will suddenly appear and say that the defendant spontaneously confessed to them in some prison yard to a killing.

In the case of Koumpouras, the defense attorney suspected that he was given money and other benefits after his arrest to shape his testimony. He was repeatedly asked in court whether his hotel bill was paid for by the prosecutor; whether he and his girlfriend have been living for months on the government’s tab; whether he received money from the prosecutors. With the prosecutors from the Queens District Attorney sitting there, he denied it all. He was reportedly lying but the prosecutors never told the jury or the judge.

It turns out that the district attorney’s office in paid Koumpouras, $16,640 for hotel bills and gave him about $3,000 in cash. Indeed, they paid him money just days before his testimony.

His defense counsel has produced a witness who says that another man committed the crime. He has also detailed some 70 other cases of prosecutorial misconduct in New York. In Queens, District Attorney Richard A. Brown, has disciplined just one lawyer for misconduct.

The office has only said that it will fight the lawsuit vigorously.

By the way, the final payment (or tip?) has handed over to Koumpouras on his way out of the courthouse. Prosecutors gave him $100 and sent him on his way.

Source: NYT

27 thoughts on “Lawsuit Details Alleged Prosecutorial Misconduct In New York Murder Case”

  1. It has always been my experience that people who can’t effectively make a case pass off their failures as attempts at humor.

  2. It’s always been my experience that people who are legends in their own mind can’t take a little ribbing. It was a joke, not an attack. Life is serendipitous and short…lighten up.

  3. Both involve the DOJ not doing their job in holding government officials responsible for their actions. No jump at all. The failure on the DOJ’s part is equivalent. The only difference is the scale of the crimes in question.

    Do you think before you speak or just automatically go on the attack?

    That was a rhetorical question.

  4. Misconduct in the Queens DA office to Bush/Cheney! That’s an Olympic record long jump!!

  5. ARE,

    While I agree with your comment, the Holder DOJ hasn’t been willing to prosecute traitors and war criminals like Bush or Cheney or the lawyers like Yoo and Bybee that provided them “legal” cover from OLC. What makes you think they’re interested in holding the profession in general accountable for malfeasance(s)? In a just world, they would be all over these guys, so when I see an act of avoidance on their part my next question is always political: who and how are they connected?

  6. A very good friend, who was a County Prosecutor (an elected position) for many years, once confided that his biggest fear was that he would become that which he prosecuted. The temptation is always present.

  7. If Clinton lost his law license for five ryears for letting his lawyer say something he knew to be false, why do these prosecutors still have a license at all? At the very least, they should be disbarred even if the DA does not indict them for criminal misconduct. Also, the DoJ should be asked to come in and prosecute the DA for his crimes. The DoJ is NOT just for the South in cleaning up corrupt judicial systems.

  8. The tone is set by the DA. I worked as an investigator for the Prosecutor of Jackson County, Mo. The rule was simple and unequivocal. You do not hide exculpatory evidence. If a prosecutor violated this they were gone! What this did was create a trust w/ defense attorneys. There would certainly be battles but not over exculpatory evidence. Believe me in the real world it’s tough. When you know the defendant is good for the crime but you have a witness you interviewed who casts doubt on that. However, when you break it down, and clear away all the emotion and horses#%t, either you’re honest or you’re not. It makes for good night sleeps. This is just a snapshot of one office over several years. I am worldly enough to know that is not how it works everywhere. I fear in the last few decades this misconduct has increased.

  9. I agree with Prof. Turley and what Mespo said. Where is the oversight when prosecutors can possibly buy convictions?

  10. Prosecutorial misconduct thrives because of immunity AND because of its own reach. Think of THIS: If you try to bust a prosecutor for doing something you know is illegal, YOU will be charged with a crime and prosecuted and end up in a very bad situation and the prosecutor is still immune.

    Harford County, Maryland. Everyone who tried to bust the prosecutor ended up in the pokey. Don’t go there. AND that prosecutor, Cassilly, was president of the national association of prosecutors.

    Unbelievable corruption in office. Totally exonerated by the attorney disciplinary committee, of course; they are worse crooks than the folks they allegedly police.

  11. When prosecutors are not held accountable for this behavior the following occurs:
    1. Jurors lose faith in anything prosecutors say. As a result even when the state is putting forth a clean case it does so in the shadow of this misconduct.
    2. Prosecutors are encouraged and emboldened to commit further unethical and possibly criminal acts to increase their “won” score without any concern for innocence, guilt, truth or justice.
    3. Our justice system becomes a travesty that serves interests
    other than the law and the public.
    4. We are all put at risk and at the mercy of a system that sees us all as guilty of something and sees no downside to treating us all like criminals.
    The Bar has an obligation to take this issue on and it should do so aggressively and publicly.

  12. In my comment up-thread, I quoted Marvin Schechter, chairman of the criminal justice section of the New York State Bar Association.

    Hopefully, Mr. Schechter will soon realize that like Wall Street the meme complex known as the Queens DA office, which is not far from Wall Street geographically, is suffering from mania as Wall Street was found to be.

    Then, perhaps the bar will require something akin to CLE, in the form of diagnosis and therapy sessions for any prosecutors working in district attorney offices (When You Are Governed By Psychopaths).

  13. If he were to bring a civil suit for damages the prosecutor might invoke a privilege called prosecutorial immunity. The exceptions need to be explored. Paying a bribe for testimony is a crime. A crime is most likely an exception. The thing about New Yorkers is they know everything and can never be wrong. Until you get any two of them in a room and they inevitably start arguing. Then, an outsider might fathom that never can be completely right because the two genuis know it alls are arguing between themselves. And so it goes with something in the judicial system. The commenter above said, Where is the judge? A crime was committed in his or her courtroom and he/she judge sentenced someone to prison based on that crime. Now that judgypoo knows about the crime it is up to the judge to do something. First thing is to entertain the notion of requesting a Grand Jury to consider crimes by the head prosecutor and his minions. First after that and within five minutes is to set aside the sentence imposed.

    Victim here should entertain suing for civil damages, the judge as well as the Chief or head prosecutor and his minion and the liar, and the municipality of the City of New York for municipal liability, and the cops, and the supervisors of the cops.

    If the judge says that the $100 dollars paid to the liar when he went out the courthouse door was only for bus fare then put the judge on the bus– to Attica.

  14. I noticed, in the article JT linked to, that the state bar official has real-time scientific knowledge:

    He blamed district attorneys who valued conviction rates and tough-guy images over adherence to the rights of the accused. “Assistant district attorneys do not emerge from law school with a genetic disposition” to hide vital material, he wrote. “Instead this is something which is learned and taught.”

    (NYT, emphasis added). That is the science taught at Stanford and other high-energy universities (The “It’s In Your Genes” Myth).

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