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Baugh quits disciplinary committee (access required)

David P. Baugh, the capital defender for the central region of the state, has resigned from the Virginia State Bar’s Third District Disciplinary Committee because of what he perceives as the bar’s failure to pursue allegations of ethical violations by prosecutors. Bar Counsel Edward L. Davis, who heads the VSB’s disciplinary apparatus, said he disagrees with ...

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2 comments

  1. I am aware of several cases where a judge finds a prosecutor guilty of prosecutorial misconduct. Some of these cases of misconduct are so egregious that it results in the reversal of the defendant’s conviction. Yet I have never seen a prosecutor publicly disciplined by the Virginia State Bar.

    Mr. Baugh courageous stand presents the bar an excellent opportunity for self-assessment.

  2. I have been involved in several high profile capital murder and other criminal investigations and I am astonished at the lack of checks and balances regarding prosecutors at both the State and Federal level.

    It seems to me that the judicial system applies one rule for prosecutors and another for everyone else. Very few judges are prepared to provide an equal playing field for prosecution and defense.

    For those judges that do, I applaud you, for the vast majority who dont I say shame on you. We are living in an era where Federal Prosecutors are writing memoranda condoning and instructing on their interpretation of acceptable torture. Is it therefore not surprising that the win at all costs mentality and noble cause corruption exists at the state level.

    No-one appears to be policing the lawyers, the results are we in Virginia allow and even condone prosecution by ambush. When will lawyers realise the facts are the facts and they dont change so why do they release them so reluctantly. Why do they refuse to hand over material until it is too late to truly investigate such matters. When will they realise that when they do that they bring their profession into disrepute. It is not the prosecutors fault if the case is weak. It is not failure to lose a case. Should not the process be about truth finding.

    I was a cop for 32 years and operated in a system where we handed over to the defense our case at the preliminary stage. All the statements available were provided in written form, signed by the witness with a declaration that they could be prosecuted for perjury if they said anything untrue. This allowed a defense lawyer to truly represent his client and being able to assess the case against him. Most times the evidence was overwhelming and resulted in a guilty plea. The truth is the public have no idea how the system is abused and when a subject becomes embroiled in the criminal justice system it is like David taking on Goliath. They have all the resources and the defense have little. The Judges even allow the prosecutor to object to the defense having resources to investigate their defense. It became abundantly clear to me on the first occasion a lawyer asked for funds for me to investigate a case.

    The prosecutor got up and asked why I would need funds, given that I was married to a local attorney. I was about to ask what that had to do with it when the judge intervened and stopped the line of questioning. He didn’t allow me any funds and I completed the investigation in any event. The result was a guilty plea and a sentence commensurate with the crime alleged. The defendant was lying to his lawyer and this emerged as the investigation progressed. The lawyer eventually confronted his client in the knowledge that his alibi was flawed. The defendant broke down and showed remorse for his actions. It was right that he should. However shouldn’t the system allow for the truth to emerge and provide the lawyer with at least the chance to establish the facts.

    People often say to me how can you defend murderers. I always answer in the same way. It was Craig Cooley who defended the Washington Sniper, Lee Malvo, who said to me, “Everybody is entitled to a defense.” I just gather the facts. However when it come to obtaining facts from the prosecutor it is like drawing teeth.

    So I say to the public capital defender, well done, it is about time someone stood up and told the truth. You can sweep the dirt under the carpet but sooner or later you have to clean your house properly. I doubt if this will even prick the conscience of the people who make the decisions on how the system should work.

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