NAPD Files Amicus Urging SCOTUS to Reverse a Decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Upholding a Conviction Obtained through the Knowing and Uncorrected Use of False Testimony
On September 15, 2017, the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD), in collaboration with Miller & Chevalier, a Washington, D.C.-based firm, filed a brief as amicus curiae in support of a petition for certiorari urging the United States Supreme Court to reverse a decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a defendant’s conviction despite a prosecutor’s knowing use of, and failure to correct, false testimony.
In the brief, the NAPD argued that the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in Mitchell v. Stein was inconsistent with the fundamental requirements of justice, fairness, and due process, stating that the decision “deprives indigent defendants of the fairness and due process that the Constitution guarantees and that common sense requires.”
The NAPD’s brief highlighted the harmful consequences that would flow from the Eleventh Circuit’s decision: Prosecutors should never be permitted to obtain a conviction through the intentional and knowing use of false testimony. After all, if, as the Eleventh Circuit held, a conviction can stand despite a prosecutor’s knowing use of false testimony, few, if any, mechanisms will exist to deter a prosecutor from engaging in conduct that compromises the fairness and integrity of a criminal trial. The Constitution, this Court’s precedents, and basic principles of fairness and due process, do not countenance such a result.
Additionally, the NAPD emphasized that the Eleventh Circuit’s decision failed to recognize that prosecutors have a historic obligation to “seek justice, not convictions at any cost,” and that the decision improperly placed the burden to correct injustices at trial on over-worked and under-funded public defenders, rather than on the prosecutors responsible for their commission. Such a result, the NAPD argued, is “less likely to be effective in ensuring the integrity of criminal trials,” and a “prescription for injustice.”
Adam Lamparello, Co-Chair of the National Association for Public Defense’s Amicus Committee, explained that “when a prosecutor knowingly uses and fails to correct false testimony to secure a conviction, it compromises the integrity of the criminal justice system, disregards the ethical obligations to which prosecutors must adhere, and taints a conviction with the very unfairness that the Constitution—and due process of law—proscribes.”
The principal authors of NAPD’s brief were Timothy O’Toole, a partner at Miller and Chevalier, and Sarah Dowd, an associate at the firm. In addition, Janet Moore, former chairman of NAPD’s Amicus Committee and a professor of law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, along with David Wovrosh, a student at the College of Law and member of the Bearcat Chapter of the NAPD, provided invaluable research and editing assistance. You can access the brief HERE
Miller & Chevalier. Founded in 1920, Miller & Chevalier is a Washington, DC law firm with a global perspective and leading practices in Tax, Employee Benefits (including ERISA), International Law and Business, White Collar and Internal Investigations, Complex Litigation, and Government Affairs. In an era of big law, Miller & Chevalier is a top-ranked firm sharply focused on targeted areas that interact with the federal government. Over the past three years, the firm's lawyers have represented more than 40 percent of the Fortune 100, one-quarter of the Fortune 500, and approximately 30 percent of the Global 100. Based in Washington, DC, a significant number of firm lawyers have held senior positions in the U.S. government and have written many of the regulations they currently help clients navigate.
National Association for Public Defense. The National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) is an association of more than 16,000 professionals who deliver the right to counsel throughout all U.S. states and territories. NAPD members include attorneys, investigators, social workers, administrators and other support staff who are responsible for executing the constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel. NAPD members advocate in jails, in courtrooms, and communities and are experts in not only theoretical best practices, but also in the practical, day-to-day delivery of services. NAPD’s collective expertise represents state, county, and local systems through fulltime, contract, and assigned counsel delivery mechanisms, dedicated juvenile, capital and appellate offices, and through a diversity of traditional and holistic practice models. NAPD provides webinar-based and other training to its members, among other litigation resources. For more on NAPD, visit: https://www.publicdefenders.us