It's frightening how protected some agents of the court are from taking reponsibility for correcting wrongful convictions - they aren't even necessarily being blamed for misconduct. Prosecutors act like they are infallible and never need to take responsibility for their mistakes, while holding all the rest of us accountable for ours. Their resistance to being held to a higher standard than currently exists is the very reason we need these proposed rules to go into effect.
Arizona's prosecutors seem especially shameless. Instead of fighting these new rules they should be leading the way to building a more just system. I'm especially disappointed with Maricopa County attorney Bill Montgomery's response, but not surprised. He's refused to take action in the wrongful conviction of Courtney Bisbee: one of her accusers recanted several years ago, and has been fighting to get her case re-heard, but Montgomery won't even talk to the kid, who authored this petition.
Courtney's judge, Warren Granville, and Bill Montgomery both have the power to have her case re-opened tomorrow, if they wanted - they just refuse to exercise it because they don't want to admit liability for her wrongful conviction and prolonged imprisonment in the first place - she was convicted in a trial by judge, not jury. Prosecutors should not be allowed to represent counties in civil action because of the conflict of interest it creates, undermining the primary duty of the prosecutor being to the People, as evidenced here. If Montgomery's most pressing sense of duty was to justice for the People, Courtney's case would have had a new hearing by now.
Meanwhile, Courtney- whose family was financially ruined by her trial and who now has to represent herself - has been spending the past six or seven years in prison going through the appeals process trying to exercise her rights - the appeals process is cumbersome and time-consuming and often doesn't work to trigger new trials because of "technicalities", people - a trial can conform perfectly and still result in convicting an innocent person if all evidence wasn't available at the time, for example, as opposed to the evidence being withheld. In Courtney's case, the recantation of a chief accuser and witness hasn't guaranteed her a new trial.
The damage by wrongful convictions isn't just to the life of the accused - Courtney's whole family has been devastated, and her daughter is growing up without her. Criminal prosecution destroys lives and those people should get it right the first time, and should be mandated to fix things when exculpatory evidence presents itself - clearly what's in place now isn't working. Maybe these rules will compel prosecutors to be a little less reckless convicting people in the first place, too. Members of the public should read the petition Courtney's accuser wrote about her conviction, and write to the Arizona Supreme Court and tell them to support the proposed rule changes.
excellent coverage here by Gary Grado the AZ Capitol Times, by the way...