An Associated Press review of all Washington cases that were reversed on appeal since 2012 because of prosecutor misconduct found that 17 of the 30 cases were in Pierce County.
Jurors sat in Pierce County Superior Court for a month, viewing grisly photos and listening to emotional testimony about the ambush that left four Lakewood police officers dead in 2009.
They ultimately found Darcus Allen guilty of driving the getaway car for shooter Maurice Clemmons.
But in January, the state Supreme Court threw out that verdict after finding the prosecutor “committed prejudicial misconduct” during closing arguments by repeatedly misstating the law.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Penner repeatedly told the jury that Allen was guilty if he knew or “should have known” what Clemmons was up to, but the state accomplice law says prosecutors had to prove that Allen actually knew Clemmons’ plans.
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The justices said it was “particularly grievous” that this officer would so mislead the jury.
That ruling was not an anomaly for the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s office.
An Associated Press review of all Washington cases that were reversed on appeal since 2012 because of prosecutor misconduct found that 17 of the 30 cases were in Pierce County. The appellate courts threw out convictions for murder, kidnapping, assault, robbery, burglary and drug charges. The problems with overturned convictions in the Pierce County prosecutor’s office were first reported by The News Tribune of Tacoma.
A review of findings of prosecutorial misconduct in Pierce County since 2000, including reversed and non-reversed cases, found 85, according to Steve Merrival, who has filed a whistle-blower complaint with the state Attorney General’s office against county Prosecutor Mark Lindquist and a complaint with the Washington Bar Association against Lindquist and six deputy prosecutors.
Merrival, the longest serving deputy prosecuting attorney in Pierce County, said Lindquist maintains an office culture that encourages winning cases at all costs, even if it means pushing the constitutional limits.
“Committing prosecutorial misconduct appears to be a rite of passage into gang membership rather than seeking justice and maintaining trust as a prosecutor,” Merrival said.
Lindquist, on the job since 2009, said the recall petition and complaints are politically motivated and their claims “are longer than a Harry Potter book and less-grounded in reality.”
“When you are vigorous, effective and hold people accountable, you’re going to occasionally make some folks unhappy,” Lindquist said. “I’m confident everyone will be cleared of the false accusations.”
When a case his office prosecuted is reversed on appeal, Lindquist said its appellate division discusses the cases with the prosecutors who were involved. He said the prosecutor in the Allen case made a mistake and said he would personally handle the retrial.
“We don’t want to have to put a victim’s family through another trial; that’s why we’re so committed to correcting mistakes when they’re made,” he said.
Several of the Pierce County murder convictions were thrown out because prosecutors misused PowerPoint presentations during closing arguments.
The Supreme Court reversed the assault, robbery and kidnapping convictions of Edward Michael Glasmann in 2012, ruling the prosecutor’s “misconduct was flagrant, ill intentioned.” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Hillman showed the jury a slide with “GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY” stamped over Glasmann’s bloodied face in a jail booking photo.
In January, the court tossed the convictions of Odies Walker, who was found guilty of being an accomplice to murder, assault and robbery charges in June 2009 in the fatal shooting of an armored-car guard during a robbery at a Lakewood Wal-Mart.
More than 100 of the 250 slides shown to the jury were headed with the words “DEFENDANT WALKER GUILTY OF PREMEDITATED MURDER.”
“We recently addressed this very same issue in Glasmann and it is regrettable that some prosecutors continue to defend these practices and the validity of convictions obtained by using them,” the justices said.
Merrival’s complaint filed with the bar focuses on a case that was thrown out by a Superior Court judge, who said the charges were “vindictive.”
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lori Kooiman filed charges against Lynn Dalsing several months after her husband was convicted of sexually abusing their daughter. The charge was based on one photograph that Kooiman swore under oath depicted Dalsing on her bed with a child. The prosecution did not provide the photo to Dalsing’s lawyer.
While the charges were pending, a sheriff’s detective sent the prosecutors an email saying the photo could not be linked to Dalsing. He said the photo was part of a series of pornographic photos that were circulating on the Internet. The prosecutors didn’t share the email with Dalsing’s lawyer.
When the prosecutors made the email available, the judge dismissed the charges and Dalsing was released. She had been held for eight months, and filed a lawsuit for false imprisonment.
Dalsing’s lawyer in the civil case asked prosecutors for a copy of the email, but they refused. After a judge ordered the prosecutors to release the email, they filed new criminal charges against Dalsing. The criminal court judge threw the charges out, saying they were based on “prosecutorial vindictiveness.”