During my 2013 Ethics Roadshow, I had a rare opportunity to highlight three instances of former government prosecutors receiving public discipline over past misconduct. Such events are so rare that for three high-profile ones to happen in the same year seemed quite remarkable. One of those three involved a Texas prosecutor who was disbarred for his conduct in putting a man in jail for almost a quarter of a century for a crime he didn’t commit. Those kinds of stories are awful to hear and, while knowing that the lawyer is ultimately made to suffer for the wrongdoing, it doesn’t ever constitute anything of a happy ending as the stripping of a law license from someone long after the fact does little to offset the abject awfulness of what the wrongfully-imprisoned individual is made to endure.
You never actually want to hear history repeating itself in such a fashion but chalk another one up for Texas. The events described in this piece discussing the disbarment of another former Texas district attorney are of a nature to simply erode faith in the judicial system even if the end result now is disbarment for the prosecutor’s role in putting a man, later freed and declared innocent by a special prosecutor on death row. Given that the underlying case received a high-level of publicity though so that the public was already in-the-know about the breakdown of the system, it is another step in the right direction for the public to at least see the disciplinary system get to the right end result.
And, while when you hear the headline version of events that the lawyer is now being disbarred for misconduct committed in connection with a 1992 trial flowing from six murders committed in 1986, it makes it seem like the wheels of justice turn quite slowly to say the least. But, on the disciplinary side, things moved quite swiftly as the wrongly-imprisoned gentlemen filed the disciplinary complaint against the former prosecutor (who had left office was back in 2000) only in 2014.