Bill Montgomery's Actions Argue in Favor of Ethical Rule He Opposes

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At the beginning of August, I wrote about proposed new ethical rules for Arizona prosecutors, in a petition currently pending before the Arizona Supreme Court.

Opposed by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, as well as numerous other county, state and federal prosecutors in Arizona, these amendments to Ethical Rule 3.8 would require prosecutors to reveal to defense counsel or a court any "new, credible, and material" evidence that creates a "reasonable likelihood" a convicted defendant did not commit the crime in question.

Under the suggested guidelines, a prosecutor must "make reasonable efforts" to look into the matter or have the "appropriate law enforcement agency" investigate the new evidence. And if there is "clear and convincing" evidence of a convicted person's innocence, the prosecutor must work to "set aside the conviction."

See also:
Bill Montgomery Opposes Ethics Rule Requiring Prosecutors to Reveal Evidence of Wrongful Convictions

The changes were suggested two years ago by the Arizona Justice Project, a non-profit group that works to free the wrongly convicted. The proposals are based on more stringent language adopted in 2008 by the American Bar Association.

Since, I first blogged about the amendments, comments from the public have been reopened by Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, and will remain open till October 25.

Read comments already posted on the Arizona Supreme Court website about the proposed changes.

Concerned citizens can make their views known, either online after registering with the court's rules forum or by snail mailing a letter to: Clerk of the Arizona Supreme Court, 1501 W. Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ 85007.

Find out how you can comment on the proposed ethical rules for prosecutors.

That the proposed changes are necessary in Sand Land, should be self-evident to anyone who's been paying attention.

Prosecutors are supposed to be "ministers of justice" in America's legal system. But all you have to do is call to mind a scoundrel such as disbarred, disgraced ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, a minister of injustice if there ever was one, to know that not all prosecutors act ethically.

Writing for the Arizona Justice Project, Larry Hammond offers the following, compelling reasons why Arizona should adopt these new requirements:

We now know, for certain, that innocent people are sometimes sent to prison, even death row. If we look only at DNA-testing cases, there have been 265 exonerations to date [nationally], and the vast majority of those wrongfully convicted are minorities.

With the famous cases of Ray Krone and Larry Youngblood, Arizona is the home of perhaps the two highest-profile exonerations in the nation. Unfortunately, these are not the only exonerations in Arizona. The Death Penalty Information Center reports that as of October 27, 2010, there had been 138 exonerations of death row inmates. Eight of those inmates were from Arizona, with Arizona ranking sixth highest among the states for the number of death row exonerations.

Since these cases were exposed, the problem of wrongful convictions has not been miraculously cured. Perhaps obviously, there is universal agreement that such travesties of justice are just that--travesties--and any means to mitigate such travesties should be taken seriously.

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34 comments
ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Mark Faull was, disgraced and disbarred ex-MCAO Andrew Thomas' chief deputy and lobbyist. Why is a lobbyist needed in the MCAO? Why is a lobbyist a "chief deputy" to the "minister of justice"?

So what has changed in the Maricopa County Attorney's office? Ask Ray Krone. Ask Debra Milke, among others.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Mr. Lemons, Once again, you're ahead of the pack!  Great journalism. 

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

If MontyPug is a Republican, he should stand for law and order, the rule of law, etc.

All these amendments do is require that exculpatory evidence be turned over to the defense. Something that has to be done already. If and when new evidence materializes the prosecutor has a duty to right the wrong. Admit they screwed up.

But that'll never happen with the MCAO and MontyPug. Just look at his predecessor.

Flyer9753
Flyer9753 topcommenter

The prosecutors job is part of enforcing the law.

How is the LAW being served when you are more interested in going after convictions (guilty or not) instead of your duty to the law?

No prosecutor should be against this and every prosecutor has a duty under the law to serve the LAW, not a conviction rate. 

Serving the LAW no matter what the evidence shows, is EVERY ATTORNEYS PRIMARY duty.

TheeFree
TheeFree

Great piece Stephen, MCAO's opposition to such a fundamental rule is extremely telling as to the prosecutorial mentality of Montgomery, his office, and unfortunately, prosecutors everywhere.  The Milke case, as you pointed out is a perfect example of this twisted mindset.  He has demonstrated absolutely no desire for justice, but will engage in completely unethical behaviors and tactics just to win a case.  Despicable!

Jukes
Jukes

I thank Mr. Lemons and the New Times for informing us that Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch has a mechanism for us to comment on this decision before her.  I have followed the instructions in the link and composed a letter to her in support of strengthening the Ethical Guidelines.  

I am distressed to learn that Mr. Montgomery and some other prosecutors in Arizona claim there is "no convincing evidence of a "'problem' of wrongful convictions in Arizona," and that these improvements to the Ethics Rules are "confusing, burdensome, and unnecessary." If there is one wrongful conviction in our state, that is one too many if it could have been avoided by the implementation of these reasonable guidelines.  

It never ceases to amaze me when someone in our justice system objects to ETHICS.

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

End absolute immunity for prosecutors and county attorneys.

They need to be held accountable and sent to prison for they're corruption actions that destroy lives and families with their unethical behavior.

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

I don't understand why Monty would want Saldate on the stand. All he can testify to is that he lied, that there was no confession, etc. What probative value would that have? Or does Monte know something that we the public and Milke's legal team and possibly the court don't know? If that's the case, Monte had better disclose what he has like right now.

shadeaux14
shadeaux14

Require that the MCAO act  ETHICALLY???????????

HOW DARE THEY.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Why would the prosecutors want to "right the wrongs" when the state's business model is designed for the prison profiteers? They sit at the state legislature like "prosecutor lobbyists" fighting against the people who want meaningful reform to Arizona's draconian mandatory minimum sentencing? A "system" that sentences a non-violent, first offender to 75 years in prison -- a defacto life sentence! Non-sexual "touching" in a public swimming pool. Wake up folks.

How Prisons Have Changed America's Electoral PoliticsPolitics and power in the age of mass incarceration
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/10/how-prisons-have-changed-americas-electoral-politics/280341/


ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Politician or minister of justice? Time to stop electing County Attorneys, and put professionals in a position where justice is for ALL, not just for "easy" convictions for political and financial gain.

Flyer9753
Flyer9753 topcommenter

@Bill_Montgomery 

lol - a Blazing Saddles classic

Also sad and true for you...

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Time for oversight, transparency and accountability for prosecutors, especially the Maricopa County Attorney's office following decades of prosecutors-gone-wild.

Time to end absolute immunity for prosecutors. 

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

@MaskedMagician1967 

Many Predecessor's, look at the history of the office in general for the last 20 years.

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

@Flyer9753  

One they have long forgotten. Now its revenge and politically motivated.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

It's all about the Benjamins Flyer. Prosecutors like MontyPug probably get a hefty commission for every private prison bed they fill.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

@Jukes  Thank you for your well-informed comment which the public needs to read. This is the publics' problem. We come to Phoenix New Times and Stephen Lemons to find out what's truly happening. The news the prosecutors don't want the public to know or to respond.

shadeaux14
shadeaux14

@Cozz ,

I wonder, at what point did law enforcement know of Saldate's dishonesty, not just in the Milke case, but with any prior cases. Seems to me that if we had an ethical County Atty, he or she would look into any cases where this liar's testimony  made the difference between innocence and guilt.

IF WE HAD AN ETHICAL COUNTY ATTY.

Maybe the voters will do a better job next time.

But probably not.

TheeFree
TheeFree

@eric.nelson745 The testimony of Saldate is all he has.  His case is hanging on by the most delicate thread and he is stubbornly clinging to his prosecutorial refuse to lose position.  He is completely desperate and knows that without Saldate, his case is lost. A sensible person would readily recognize this gross injustice and do the right thing.  Montgomery has had numerous opportunities to do so, but he continues to behave like a juvenile and demand that he gets what he wants.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

True that Cozz. Wasn't Romley the CA before Candy Andy?

Wonder how many cases he fucked up?

yourproductsucks2
yourproductsucks2 topcommenter

You are right, for once. Rick Romley had an obligation to ensure milke was guilty despite s testimony.

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

@shadeaux14 @Cozz

I would believe they did then and do now but don't care, all they care about is the conviction, guilty or not.

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

@TheeFree @eric.nelson745 I'm curious what else Saldate lied about before he retired. I'm sure Deborah Milke's attorneys wonder about the same things. Saldate is probably better off not talking cuz once he's on the stand, Milke's attorneys will start probing into other cases. That, I submit, would be Monty's worst-worst nightmare.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

@MaskedMagician1967 Ask Ray Krone or better yet, read "jingle Jangle" the Ray Krone story. The same prosecutors in the Debra Milke case wanted Ray to die. 

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

Cozz, I'm not as familiar with Romley's cases as I moved to Arizona in 2004.

Perhaps you could shed some light on some of his cases? I know he fucked up the Milke case. I know he didn't pursue criminal charges against the disgraceful old man of MCSO.

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

@MaskedMagician1967  

Romley was just another dirtbag that didn't have a clue what ethic's are.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

Possible Cozz.

Since prosecutors, who are elected politicians, are required to file campaign-finance paperwork with the State, we can see how much money they have in their war chest.

I personally suspect that each prosecutor gets a check made out to them by CCA for deposit into their private bank account. Since the public can't see that information, we'll never know for sure.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

Eric, I wonder why Saldate 'retired'.

He may have been forced to retire due to the Milke case.

It may have been a PR nightmare for Phoenix PD. (Though I wonder why our media whore of a sheriff didn't hire him. He's a perfect candidate for MCSO.)

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