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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 penalty case:

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 against him

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 bedroom."
  • "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.)

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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