Brief of Legal Ethics Scholars In Support of State's Motion for New Trial
42 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2019
Date Written: October 25, 2019
In 2018, the Conviction Integrity Unit (“CIU”) of St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner’s office began a review of Lamar Johnson’s case. According to the CIU Report, the CIU initiated a joint investigation into the facts of the case and Johnson’s claim of innocence and constitutional error with Johnson’s post-conviction counsel, the Midwest Innocence Project. While much of the new, material evidence of Johnson’s actual innocence had been discovered before the CIU began its review, the CIU nonetheless conducted a thorough review of the Circuit Attorney’s files from the case, interviewed Mr. Johnson, as well as the previously unidentified, true second perpetrator. In addition to the significant evidence of actual innocence presented to the CIU by Mr. Johnson’s post-conviction attorneys, the CIU’s investigation produced additional evidence of prosecutorial and police misconduct.
The Circuit Attorney of St. Louis City filed a Motion for New Trial based on newly discovered evidence that Lamar Johnson was innocent and had been denied a fair trial because of extensive state misconduct. The Circuit Court for the Circuit of St. Louis City dismissed the motion on the grounds that the motion was untimely and the court could find no other statutory authority allowing the Court to set aside Johnson’s conviction even if he is innocent and was wrongly convicted. Before so ruling, however, the court expressed skepticism about whether it was proper for the Circuit Attorney even to file the new trial motion, and appointed the Attorney General to “appear on behalf of the State.” Aug. 23, 2019 Order (“Order”) (stating that “the appointment of the Attorney General was necessary to protect the integrity of the legal process”). Among other things, the court expressed concern that the Circuit Attorney had a conflict of interest because the alleged prosecutorial misconduct was committed by a former employee of her office. Amici filed this brief to assure this Court that, in seeking to rectify the wrongful conviction of an innocent person whose trial was marred by prosecutorial misconduct, the Circuit Attorney has acted consistently with her duty to seek justice and in accordance with the highest traditions of a prosecutor’s office.
Keywords: prosecutor, ethics, professional responsibility, offician misconduct, police misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, wrongful conviction, conviction integrity unit, innocence
JEL Classification: K14, K19, K41, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation