Ninth Circuit Encourages Prosecutorial Misconduct in Valdovinos v. McGrath?

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a habeas petition in a case where a prosecutor and police officer withheld exculpatory evidence.  In other words, the prosecutor broke the law.  After reading Valdovinos v. McGrath (CA9) (here), you will be given a one-question exam.  Read careful.

Who was the prosecutor who broke the law?  
Like me, you'd get an "F" on this examination.  You would learn that Detective Ernesto Alcantar hid exculpatory evidence in a case involving eye-witness identification.  Federal judges always identify the miscreant police officers.  When it comes to identifying the lawyer who hid evidence, judges mention "the prosecution."  Like this:
At the preliminary hearing, Valdovinos’s defense attorney, in the presence of the prosecutor [Who is this prosecutor?] and Detective Alcantar [there's the poor cop's name again] ,requested a blackboard preliminary hearing, in which a screen prevents the witnesses from seeing the defendant. Defense counsel made the request based on a review of police reports indicating the witnesses had never seen a lineup or photo lineup. Neither the prosecutor [Who is this man or woman?] nor Detective Alcantar [hello again] informed the court or defense counsel that the witnessesalready had seen photo lineups including Valdovinos’s photo, or that [one eye-witness] tentatively had identified Valdovinos’s photo whereas [another eye-witness] had chosen different photographs. The courtdenied the defense attorney’s request.
If you read the entire opinion, you'll learn that the entire case against the defendant was based on eye-witness identification.  Wrongful eye-witness identifications are the leading cause of wrongful convictions.  You will learn that one of the eye-witnesses put someone other than the defendant at the scene of the crime.

Think about that.   An eye-witness said that the defendant was not present during the shooting.

A prosecutor hid this evidence form the defense, in violation of the Constitution, and in violation of the California Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Ninth Circuit panel found the prosecutors' conduct so prejudicial to the administration of justice that they granted a habeas petition.  Yet the panel never referred the prosecutor to the California State Bar for investigation.  The panel did not even identify the prosecutor by name.

Why do courts refuse to identify prosecutors by name when prosecutors have committed prosecutorial misconduct?

What does a prosecutor risk by violating the Constitution and Rules of Professional Conduct?  The odds of being caught are extremely low: If you hide something that no one knows to look for, how will they find it?  And even if you're caught, the courts will keep you anonymous.


Prosecutorial misconduct should be treated as the serious violation of the law that it is.  Yet refusing to sanction prosecutorial misconduct - even, refusing even to name unethical prosecutors in a judicial opinion - at best excuses prosecutorial misconduct; at worst, it encourages it.

5 comments:

  Anonymous

9:56 AM

Is there any way to find the name of the prosecutor, using court records?

  Mike

4:59 PM

In the briefs filed in the case, perhaps the parties mentioned the prosecutor's name. Maybe PACER?

It's in state court, so I could probably find out with some diligence.

  Anonymous

12:03 PM

Javier Alcala, per the Mercury News: http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_14648200

  Mike

1:58 PM

Awesome; thank you!

  Anonymous

10:22 AM

Richard Vagnozzi, Jennifer Waxler, or Martin Boags, my guess.