Taking prosecutor accountability seriously?

The New York Times reports on the US Justice Department’s release of a 672-page report into accusations that federal prosecutors mishandled the prosecution of the late Senator Ted Stevens for corruption.  The report recommended that two prosecutors be suspended without pay for short periods; the report did not judge the actions of a third prosecutor who led the investigation into Stevens and other cases of corruption in Alaskan politics, Nicolas Marsh, because he committed suicide in relation to the subsequent internal investigation against him.

The case, however, started to fall apart after it emerged that prosecutors had failed to turn over information, like conflicting statements by witnesses, that might have helped Mr. Stevens at his trial. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., then new to the job, asked the judge to throw out the conviction, and both the court and the department began investigations. Mr. Stevens died in a 2010 plane crash.

Many of the department’s findings appeared to dovetail with a report by the court-appointed special prosecutor, which was made public in March. Both reports portrayed a rushed and poorly supervised preparation for the trial, criticizing Mr. Bottini and Mr. Goeke while withholding judgment about a third prosecutor, Nicholas Marsh, because he committed suicide.

Prosecutors Face Penalty in ’08 Trial of a Senator.

And this from an article by Jeffery Toobin in the New Yorker:

All the prosecutors in the case remain with the government except one. Nicholas Marsh, as a relatively junior lawyer in the Justice Department, built the case against Stevens, and, working with F.B.I. agents and local prosecutors, coördinated a massive investigation of corruption in the state’s politics. The efforts of Marsh and others resulted in nine convictions, including six guilty pleas, and culminated in the Stevens trial. But when that case fell apart Marsh suddenly found himself the subject of a criminal inquiry rather than the leader of one. Marsh came to feel that this scrutiny was destroying his life. Against his will, he was transferred by Justice Department superiors out of the élite Public Integrity Section and into the relative backwater of the Office of International Affairs, which does not conduct prosecutions. Marsh awaited the results of the two investigations, but months, and then a year, passed without either one coming to a conclusion. His impatience gave way to despair. On September 26th, Marsh committed suicide.

Casualties of Justice.

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