Set the Death Penalty as Punishment
for Prosecutorial Misconduct in Death Penalty Cases
September 1, 2001
Here's a report
of yet another outrageous example of prosecutorial misconduct in a death
Dennis Counterman, who has an
I.Q. in the mid-70's, was sentenced to death for setting a fire in his house
that killed his three young sons.
The only direct evidence
came from his wife, who
testified that she had been awakened by the sound of a lighter and then
saw her husband at the bottom of the stairs with a bucket.
Mrs. Counterman, who is
mentally retarded, also testified that her children did not have a
history of setting fires.
But the prosecutor withheld
the following evidence from Counterman's lawyers:
- "...on the day of the
fire, Mrs. Counterman told a police officer that the couple's oldest
son, Christopher, had awakened her, told her that there was a fire, and
that she had then awakened her husband.
- "Mrs. Counterman told
another detective a similar story."
- "On the day of the
fire, a neighbor told police that Mrs. Counterman had told her that a
month before the fire Christopher had burned the curtains in his
- "Another person told
the police that she had seen Christopher set a rug on fire."
Counterman's conviction has
been thrown out, before the state had a chance to kill him.
How about a law that says the
penalty for withholding exculpatory evidence will be the same penalty the
defendant faced at trial? I bet there would then be a lot less
withholding of evidence in death penalty cases! (And hopefully in
other types of cases as well.)