Allegations of Impropriety and Prosecutorial Misconduct Plague Federal Drug Cases

Two men were convicted of drug charges in a Kansas federal court; nothing extraordinary about that. But what if those same two men later appealed their convictions based on allegations of prosecutorial misconduct that prevented them from obtaining vital evidence that could very well have changed the outcome of their case? That is precisely what is happening in the ongoing federal court cases against defendants William Pickard and Clyde Apperson.

Background of the Cases

The defendants' initial conviction came in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas in 2003. Charges filed against the men were for possession and intent to manufacture LSD. A cornerstone of the prosecution's case was the testimony of an informant - Gordon Skinner - who, while being a "criminal associate" of the defendants, testified against them.

Following the 2003 convictions, both men appealed the verdicts. The appellate court upheld the convictions. In 2008, both men filed motions to set aside the verdicts under a federal statute, alleging that the prosecution knowingly suppressed evidence of Skinner's own criminal activity, thus robbing the defense of a line of questioning that could have discredited the government's prime witness and possibly changed the outcome of the case.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied the motions, but the court found that there was enough evidence to have a lower criminal court review whether the possibility that prosecutorial misconduct could have played a role in the trial.

What Is Prosecutorial Misconduct?

Black's Law Dictionary defines prosecutorial misconduct as "a prosecutor's improper or illegal act (or failure to act), especially involving an attempt to avoid required disclosure or to persuade the jury to wrongly convict a defendant or wrongly assess a punishment." In layman's terms, though, misconduct occurs when a prosecutor purposely keeps possibly exculpatory evidence away from the defense or says something improper in front of a jury that will convince them to convict.

How Does Prosecutorial Misconduct Play a Role in This Case?

The judge in the Pickard/Apperson appeals cases feels that there is a possibility that prosecutorial misconduct could have played a part in the defendants' motions to set aside the convictions. The issue of prosecutorial misconduct was remanded from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to the original Kansas federal trial court that heard the criminal case. The lower court judge will now make a determination about whether or not the government acted improperly, and, if so, what impact that will have on the defendants' convictions.

It is hard to discover prosecutorial misconduct because it generally involves the failure to disclose information. If evidence comes to light of potential prosecutorial misconduct related to a criminal conviction, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn more about legal avenues to file appeals or motions to have the verdict reconsidered.