Monday, September 20, 2004

Alan Gell

The two North Carolina prosecutors who helped put Alan Gell on death row are having their actions reviewed before the State Bar disciplinary committee later this week. According to reports, the two prosecutors failed to turn over evidence of Gell's innocence to his defense team. They claim that they were either unaware of the statements or did not understand that they needed to turn the evidence over the defense lawyers.

First, its one of the key protections a defendant in a criminal trial has: the right to any exculpatory evidence. They teach that in criminal procedure 101 and every criminal prosecutor (certainly one trying a capital murder) should know those rules inside and out. If there is any evidence that could exonerate a defendant or shed doubt on his or her guilt, the prosecution is obligated to turn it over (within parameters). This is part of providing a fair and just trial.

Second, there is a great quote in the article that really sums it up for me. It comes from Tye Hunter who heads the NC State Defense Bar. He states "If they had taken 500 bucks from Gell, they'd be disbarred. But they took years of freedom from this man, and there's nothing worse that you can do than deprive someone of their freedom." Gell served 6 years on death row. I don't know how you compensate for even one day on death row, for even one day of contemplating your pending murder for something you didn't do. In every law student's professional responsibility course, he or she is taught the two main rules of professional responsibility: don't sue your clients and don't steal money from them (well, we're also reminded not to sleep with them). A lawyer cannot even borrow so much as $1 from his client's trust account without being subject to disbarrment. The professional responsibility rules are clear on that. Doesn't it seem clear that approaching a man's freedom with such a cavalier attitude should be just as unethical?

Gell Trial Under Review

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