Justice Department investigates 2 ex-prosecutors involved in federal death penalty case in Ga.

may 13, 2012 Source : http://www.therepublic.com

ATLANTA — The Justice Department is investigating two former federal prosecutors in Atlanta because of alleged misconduct in a death penalty case, the chief federal prosecutor here said.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said she reported Todd Alley and Matthew Jackson to the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility last month after U.S. District Senior Judge Clarence Cooper accused the pair of repeatedly deceiving him during pretrial litigation in the capital case of Brian Richardson, according to The Daily Report (http://bit.ly/K5JgeV ).

Cooper issued an order outlining his problems with the two lawyers during the penalty phase of Richardson’s trial after a jury had found him guilty of murdering a fellow inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta. The jury later deadlocked on the death penalty, leaving Cooper to sentence Richardson to life without parole.

Yates told the newspaper it was the second time she asked the department’s disciplinary arm to investigate Alley and Jackson in connection with Richardson’s case. She said she reported both prosecutors last year and pulled them from the case after public defenders accused the two of violating an order that had disqualified Alley from the case.

She said she called for the investigation after Richardson’s attorneys told her that Jackson, in a recorded conversation with another federal inmate, made inappropriate comments about the defense team. Richardson’s lawyers also accused Alley of taking multiple phone calls from the same inmate, a potential witness in the case against Richardson, even after he had been disqualified from the case.

She said it was the second time she has asked the department’s disciplinary arm to investigate the two.

Alley, who is now in private practice, declined to comment to The Daily Report. Jackson, who is now a federal prosecutor in Florida, couldn’t be reached for comment by The Daily Report. The two did not immediately return calls seeking comment from The Associated Press on Sunday.

Richardson’s defense team said in court pleadings and an interview with the newspaper that Alley and Jackson engaged in intentional and repeated misconduct. They cited recorded phone calls with the inmate in which Jackson disparaged the defense team. In one call, Jackson joked that if the inmate were to kill a defense attorney, “we’ll go light on you.”

Richardson faced the death penalty for the July 2007 killing of Steven Obara, 60, who was stabbed and choked before he was strangled to death. The inmate, who was abused as a child, told authorities he targeted his cellmate because Obara was serving a prison sentence on child molestation charges.

The death penalty case was a rarity in the federal court system, and prosecutors and federal defense lawyers devoted considerableresources to it. Authorities say Richardson was a cold-blooded killer who lulled Obara into believing they were friends and then turned on him. But his defense team argued that Richardson’s violent past was rooted in an abusive childhood that led to mental illness.


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