While Ted Stevens may be a scum bag, AG Holder did the right thing when he dropped charges against him due to prosecutorial misconduct.
Ted “the internet is a series of tubes” Stevens was a US Senator between 1968 and 2009. He was charged with corruption last year, which many believe is the reason for his defeat in the 2008 election. He is known for close ties to the energy industry and his ability to win pork barrel projects for his state. When asked whether he would assent to removing the “Bridge to Nowhere” from an appropriations bill, he hatefully snarled “No!” as if he had just been asked to burn an American flag. Long story short, the man was a pathetic excuse for a public servant, and his shameless style of self-dealing (criminal or not) represents everything nauseating about politics.
Yet his legal proceedings have come under scrutiny, with the presiding judge outraged of prosecutorial misconduct. Prosecutors have a duty to disclose all potentially exculpatory evidence (evidence favorable to the defendant) in criminal cases. For example, if a prosecutor learns that the victim of an alleged crime has a history of making false accusations, this information must be turned over to the defense. Strong evidence suggests that in this case the Assistant United States Attorneys in the Public Corruption Division deliberately withheld such exculpatory information. Accordingly, AG Holder ordered charges dropped, and is now considering criminal charges against the prosecutors.
Regardless of how scummy Stevens is, the principle at stake is far more important than any single case. Unlike criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors are not supposed to exercise “zealos advocacy.” Rather, a prosecutor’s role is best described as “doing justice.” Some have even called it a “quasi-judicial” role. What this means is that a good prosecutor does not always win. Good prosecutors drop bad cases, and voluntarily disadvantage themselves at trial in the interest of fairness.
If the Stevens prosecutors forgot themselves, and got caught up in their drive to win a high profile case, they deserve to (1) lose the case, (2) be fired, and (3) possibly face criminal charges. Since prosecutors enjoy full immunity from civil suit for their actions as prosecutors (Stupid rule! They should only have qualified immunity like cops.), perhaps this public beheading by AG Holder will remind them of their proper role.