By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Earlier we featured the story of the Washington Supreme Court reversing the murder conviction of Odies Walker after an attorney with the Pierce County Prosecutor’s office made inflammatory and especially prejudicial power point slides during closing arguments. Citing an unacceptably large number of reversals and substantiated accusations of Prosecutorial Misconduct and Vindictiveness, Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jay Roof ruled that there was sufficient cause to proceed with gathering signatures for a recall election. A ruling of this nature is required under the Washington Constitution to recall an elected official.
Organizers will need to gather 39,000 signatures for the recall to be held in an election to recall County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.
The Associated Press investigated cases statewide that were reversed on appeal since 2012. Of these thirty cases seventeen were tried in Pierce County. Convictions included murder, kidnapping, felony assault, robbery, burglary, and drug offenses. Of additional concern, Deputy Prosecutor Steve Merrival filed a whistleblower complaint with the Washington Attorney General’s Office and another complaint the Washington Bar Association against Mr. Lindquist. Mr. Merrival alleges that Lindquist maintains an office culture that encourages winning at all costs regardless of constitutional safeguards afforded defendants. He is quoted specifically as stating:
“Committing prosecutorial misconduct appears to be a rite of passage into gang membership rather than seeking justice and maintaining trust as a prosecutor.”
In our featured article regarding the reversal of the murder trial of Odies Walker, available HERE, the Washington Supreme Court in its majority opinion lends credence to Deputy Prosecutor Merrival’s assertions:
The court held that the prosecutor’s duty is to seek justice, not merely convictions. Per State v. Monday a “prosecutor must enforce the law by prosecuting those who have violated the peace and dignity of the state by breaking the law.” At the same time, a prosecutor “functions as the representative of the people in a quasi-judicial capacity in a search for justice.” A prosecutor does not fulfill either role by securing a conviction based on proceedings that violate a defendant’s right to a fair trial—such convictions in fact undermine the integrity of our entire criminal justice system. We fail to appreciate why the prosecutor felt these slides were necessary to secure a conviction, and remain committed to the words of Fielding, which resonate as strongly today as when they were first made over 100 years ago.
[A] Public prosecutor… is a quasi-judicial officer, representing the People of the state and presumed to act impartially in the interest only of justice. If he lays aside the impartiality that should characterize his official action to become a heated partisan, and by vituperation of the prisoner and appeals to prejudice seeks to procure a conviction at all hazards, he ceases to properly represent the public interest, which demands no victim, and asks no conviction through the aid of passion, sympathy or resentment. [citations omitted]
Prosecutor Lindquist, who has served in this capacity since 2009, stated that the recall effort was politically motivated and that the claims made against him “are longer than a Harry Potter book and less-grounded in reality.” He further stated:
“When you are vigorous, effective and hold people accountable, you’re going to occasionally make some folks unhappy. I’m confident everyone will be cleared of the false accusations.”
By Darren Smith
Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office (Photo Credit)
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