Commentaries, Global Warming, Opinions   Cover   •   Commentary   •   Books & Reviews   •   Climate Change   •   Site Links   •   Feedback
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
WEBCommentary Contributor
Author:  Michael J. Gaynor
Bio: Michael J. Gaynor
Date:  April 14, 2012
Print article - Printer friendly version

Email article link to friend(s) - Email a link to this article to friends

Facebook - Facebook

Topic category:  Government/Politics

Bill O'Reilly's Simplistic View of Prosecutorial Duty Will Not Do

Sometimes the duty of a prosecutor is NOT to prosecute.

Bill O'Reilly, host of "The O'Reilly Factor," is not a lawyer.

That's fine.

O'Reilly is opinated.

That's fine too.

Sometimes O'Reilly dangerously errs or oversimplifies when discussing legal matters.

That's bad.

No wonder Fox News' Megyn Kelly said there's so much to correct.

On his April 12, 2012 show, O'Reilly, in a discussion of the George Zimmerman prosecution, O'Reilly airly said that the duty of a prosecutor is to prosecute.

If it were that simple, former Durham County, North Carolina district attorney Mike Nifong, who personally prosecuted the Duke lacrosse no rape case, would be a poster boy for prosecutors instead of a disgraced, disbarred former persecutor.

Sometimes the duty of a prosecutor is NOT to prosecute.

We must not forget that in the Duke case false accuser Crystal Gail Magum was cast by the liberal media establishment led by The New York Times as a victim and members of the Duke men's lacrosse team as villains. It turned out that the accuser was the villain and the team members were the victims.

Initially Zimmerman was cast by the liberal media as a crazed white racist hunting innocent black children as prey. Trayvon Martin may turn out to be an innocent victim, but that is not clear now. What is clear is that NBC redacted a video so that Zimmerman seemed to be racist, Zimmerman is Hispanic and there are blacks who know Zimmerman who don't believe he's a racist and a witness who said that Martin was on top of Zimmerman before Zimmerman shot and killed him.

Prosecutors have a duty to see that justice is done, not to prosecute without a reasonable belief that there is probable cause to prosecute.

Rule 3.8 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct imposes "special responsibilities" on prosecutors and other government attorneys.

RULE 3.8 states:

(a) A prosecutor or other government lawyer shall not institute, cause to be instituted or maintain a criminal charge when the prosecutor or other government lawyer knows or it is obvious that the charge is not supported by probable cause.

(b) A prosecutor or other government lawyer in criminal litigation shall maketimely disclosure to counsel for the defendant or to a defendant who has no counsel of the existence of evidence or information known to the prosecutor or other government lawyer that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, mitigate the degree of the offense, or reduce the sentence, except when relieved of this responsibility by a protective order of a tribunal.

The Comment to Rule 3.8 explains:

[1] A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate. This responsibility carries with it specific obligations to see that the defendant is accorded procedural justice and that guilt is decided upon the basis of sufficient evidence. Applicable state or federal law may require other measures by the prosecutor, and knowing disregard of those obligations or a systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion could constitute a violation of Rule 8.4. A government lawyer in a criminal case is considered a “prosecutor” for purposes of this Rule.

[5] Rule 3.6 prohibits extrajudicial statements that have a substantial likelihood of prejudicing an adjudicatory proceeding. In the context of a criminal prosecution, a prosecutor’s extrajudicial statement can create the additional problem of increasing public condemnation of the accused. Although the announcement of an indictment, for example, will necessarily have severe consequences for the accused, a prosecutor can, and should, avoid comments that have no legitimate law enforcement purpose and have a substantial likelihood of increasing public opprobrium against the accused. A prosecutor in a criminal case should make reasonable efforts to prevent persons under the prosecutor’s supervisory authority, which may include investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees and other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor, from making extrajudicial statements that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6....

[6] Like other lawyers, prosecutors are subject to Rule 5.1 and Rule 5.3, which relate to responsibilities regarding lawyers and nonlawyers who work for or are associated with the lawyer’s office. Prosecutors should bear in mind the importance of these obligations in connection with the unique dangers of improper extrajudicial statements in a criminal case, and should exercise reasonable care to prevent persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor from making improper extrajudicial statements. Ordinarily, the reasonable care standard will be satisfied if the prosecutor issues the appropriate cautions to law enforcement personnel and other relevant individuals.

[6A] Reference to a “prosecutor” in this Rule includes the office of the prosecutor and all lawyers affiliated with the prosecutor’s office who are responsible for the prosecution function. Like other lawyers, prosecutors are subject to Rule 3.3, which requires a lawyer to take reasonable remedial measures to correct material evidence that the lawyer has offered when the lawyer comes to know of its falsity. See Rule 3.3, Comment [6A].

[6B] The prosecutor’s duty to seek justice has traditionally been understood not only to require the prosecutor to take precautions to avoid convicting innocent individuals, but also to require the prosecutor to take reasonable remedial measures when it appears likely that an innocent person was wrongly convicted. Accordingly, though not required by these Rules, when a prosecutor comes to know of new and material evidence creating a reasonable likelihood that a person was wrongly convicted, the prosecutor should examine the evidence and undertake such further inquiry or investigation as may be necessary to determine whether the conviction was wrongful. The scope of the inquiry will depend on the circumstances. In some cases, the prosecutor may recognize the need to reinvestigate the underlying case; in others, it may be appropriate to await development of the record in collateral proceedings initiated by the defendant. The nature of the inquiry or investigation should be such as to provide a reasonable belief that the conviction should or should not be set aside.

[6C] Likewise, when a prosecutor comes to know of clear and convincing evidence establishing that a conviction was wrongful, the prosecutor should disclose the new evidence to the defendant so that defense counsel may conduct any necessary investigation and make any appropriate motions directed at setting aside the verdict, and should disclose the new evidence to the court or other appropriate authority so that the court can determine whether to initiate its own inquiry. The evidence should be disclosed in a timely manner, depending on the particular circumstances. For example, disclosure of the evidence might be deferred where it could prejudice the prosecutor’s investigation into the matter. If the convicted defendant is unrepresented and cannot afford to retain counsel, the prosecutor should request that the court appoint counsel for purposes of these post-conviction proceedings. This Comment applies to new and material evidence of innocence, regardless of whether it could previously have been discovered by the defense.

[6D] If the prosecutor comes to know of clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was convicted of an offense that the defendant did not commit, the prosecutor should seek to remedy the injustice by taking appropriate steps to remedy the wrongful conviction. These steps may include, depending on the particular circumstances, disclosure of the evidence to the defendant, requesting that the court appoint counsel for an unrepresented indigent defendant and, where appropriate, notifying the court that the prosecutor believes that the defendant was wrongfully convicted.

[6E] Comments [6B], [6C] and [6D] apply whether the new evidence comes to the attention of the prosecutor who obtained the defendant’s conviction or to a different prosecutor. If the evidence comes to the attention of a prosecutor in a different prosecutor’s office, the prosecutor should notify the office of the prosecutor who obtained the conviction.

Michael J. Gaynor

Send email feedback to Michael J. Gaynor


Biography - Michael J. Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.

Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.

The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.

Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.

Gaynor's email address is gaynormike@aol.com.


Read other commentaries by Michael J. Gaynor.

Copyright © 2012 by Michael J. Gaynor
All Rights Reserved.

[ Back ]


© 2004-2017 by WEBCommentary(tm), All Rights Reserved