The Brooklyn district attorney Charles J. Hynes is not have a particularly good week. First, Hynes had to fire one of his top people after Gang Bureau head Deanna Rodriguez used racist and anti-gay language. Now he will have to testify about allegations that his office ignores and even promotes prosecutorial misconduct. The testimony will occur in the case of Jabbar Collins, who has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the office of District Attorney Charles J. Hynes after he won his release after 16 years in prison for murder. He claims that his case is only one of an array of cases showing a pattern of egregious abuses and misconduct by Hynes’ office and prosecutors.
Judge Robert M. Levy ordered Mr. Hynes to testify in a deposition the week of Aug. 19 and refused the demand of Hynes’ lawyer that he be given advance notice of cases to be questioned about in the deposition.
Hynes’ top aide, Michael F. Vecchione, has also been accused of fostering such abuse.
Among the abuse was the so-called “hotel custody program” where witnesses were detained against their will and allegedly pressured into false statements. A paralegal detailed how prosecutors used the alleged forced interrogations to get witnesses to support their cases.
In the Collins case, prosecutors secured the conviction for killing Abraham Pollack based on the testimony of three witnesses. His conviction was tossed out after it was discovered that prosecutor withheld evidence — a common abuse by prosecutors in many offices. It is the type of abuse that is rightfully blamed on the top management of the office who clearly do not punish prosecutors for such violations. Prosecutors would not withhold evidence unless they are being encouraged to game the system by hiding evidence or fighting every effort to disclose the full record for trials. In the case of Mr. Collins, he alleged that officers working on the case, Vincent Gerecitano and Jose. R. Hernandez, had pressured a heroin addict to implicate Mr. Collins. He also alleged that Mr. Vecchione had threatened the addict with prosecution and bodily harm unless he agreed to testify against Mr. Collins. His filings state that other witnesses reported the same strong arm tactics.
The order for Hynes to testify is long overdue. He should be held accountable for the abuse, but he should not be the only one. The question is when the New York bar will act to treat this type of prosecutorial abuse as a serious ethical violation by prosecutors.
Source: NY Times