The Stevens Case – A Fair Report?

“There are two sides to every story and then there is truth.”  Mark Twain

I admire anyone who waded through the Schuelke-Shields report concerning allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in the Stevens case.  There is no doubt the report is lengthy.  But is it fair?  Was there a true investigation where the facts are gathered and weighed?  Or was there a bias in the report itself and a failure to consider relevant evidence?

I would urge anyone interested in this matter to read the submissions made by the parties under investigation.  The picture they paint calls into question the fairness and accuracy of the Schuelke-Shields report.

I cannot defend everything that occurred during the Stevens trial.  To me, the most significant factor which lead to discovery problems was the management failure in the Public Integrity Section and the Criminal Division.  It was a clear recipe for disaster.

The Schuelke-Shields report, however, appears to be guided by a predetermined political result – laying out hundreds of pages of “facts” which include numerous instances of assumptions, ignoring of contrary evidence and failing to even acknowledge surrounding circumstances, and then protecting this flawed process by concluding that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute the individual prosecutors for criminal contempt of court.

Along the way, Schuelke and Shields have unfairly tarnished a number of professional prosecutors.  This is the way it goes now for prosecutors who may make mistakes but fall well short of intentional misconduct.  It is target season on prosecutors  and the defense bar knows it, and has used the media to promote the perception that prosecutorial misconduct is on the rise.

I take a different view.  Prosecutors make mistakes.  Some are sloppy and inadequately trained.  Many are hard-working professionals who are dedicated to justice and the fair administration of the criminal justice system.  It is hard for me to believe that prosecutorial misconduct is on the rise – unfortunately, it is always a problem which needs to be closely regulated and supervised. 

High profile cases typically bring about bad law or bad results.  There is no question that mistakes were made in the Stevens case, but the Schuelke-Shields report ignores too many facts, inconsistent evidence and the surrounding managerial dysfunctions to carry much weight.

In many respects, the Schuelke-Shields report is guilty of the same conduct it complains about in the Stevens case.  I urge interested parties to read the submissions by the prosecutors who were investigated, carefully weigh the evidence and then see where they come out.

The era of prosecutor bashing is in full swing.  I would urge everyone to calm down, adhere to fairness, weigh all of the facts, and then reach your own judgment.

When you consider all of the evidence, it is clear that Mark Twain had it right – there are two sides to the Stevens case story, and then there is the truth.

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  1. April 3, 2012

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