I have a Google Alert for the phrase “death penalty Pennsylvania.” Whenever these words come up in the media, I get an email with a link to the article.
Yesterday this came up:
DAs Running Wild
TomPaine.com – Washington,DC,USA
While former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong is no longer free to deny justice to other defendants, the prosecutors in many of those death penalty …
This drew my attention. What happened to Mike Nifong in Durham, NC, was an aberration. Usually when district attorneys behave badly, nothing happens. Sometimes they even get promoted.
Much to my surprise, the authors of the article were Christopher Hill and William Webster of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project:
While the Duke players faced a real risk of going to prison, there are other citizens of North Carolina and elsewhere across the country who have faced even greater risks because of prosecutorial misconduct, who have been sent to death row and even been executed. While former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong is no longer free to deny justice to other defendants, the prosecutors in many of those death penalty cases are still allowed to practice law. State ethics boards have, in effect, allowed death before disbarment.
While Mike Nifong deserved what he got, there are many more DAs and ADAs who deserve the same fate. Some of them are working in DA offices in Pennsylvania.
The article goes on to mention the case of Dennis Counterman of Allentown. Then-ADA Richard Tomsho withheld at least seven pieces of evidence that pointed to Counterman’s innocence in the house fire that killed Counterman’s three sons. With that crucial evidence hidden from the defense, Counterman landed on Pennsylvania’s death row. It was only after 18 years in prison that Counterman finally found a twisted form of justice when he was released after winning a new trial and then taking a plea bargain.
(Paul Carpenter of The Morning Call of Allentown effectively took Tomsho to task in a column last fall.)
And Tomsho? He now works for Attorney General Tom Corbett. There are rumblings that Corbett wants to run for governor. If Corbett hires someone like Tomsho for his AG staff, who would he hire for his gubernatorial staff? Tony Soprano?
Andy in Harrisburg