At this point in the G. Paul Howes ethics hearing, even a lowly LT reporter knows how to properly fill out a witness voucher. But since the launch of the defense’s case yesterday afternoon, Howes’ attorney Paul Knight has been trying to show that the rules for witness vouchers at the time of the alleged misconduct were vague at best.
Defense witness, David Schertler of Schertler & Onorato, stressed that during that time period witness vouchers were a very “minor part of the job” and added that he was “somewhat embarrassed” by having no prior knowledge of the statute governing witness vouchers even after serving for several years as chief of the Homicide Section in the U.S. Attorneys Office. Another defense witness, Alan Strasser, who was a former assistant U.S. attorney, lamented that “it was a constant source of dismay” to him that assistants were not given formal training on almost anything including vouchers.
But Deputy Bar Counsel Elizabeth Herman countered by asking the defense witnesses if they would give vouchers to incarcerated witnesses or to witnesses who had no connections to an investigation. Not a one answered yes.
The afternoon highlights included testimony by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, the now-retired U.S. District Court Judge for D.C. who heard the Newton Street Gang cases, and Howes himself.
In a booming bass voice, Jackson talked up Howes, saying he was an “exceptionally competent lawyer,” and he explained the reasons why he recused himself from the Newton Street case after allegations of prosecutorial misconduct were brought forward. “I was absolutely convinced that those defendants received a fair trial,” he said, citing that as one of the reasons why he couldn’t fairly preside over another trial. He also added that without Howes there to retry the case, he didn’t think the government would have as good a chance.
Howes, who was on the witness stand for an hour and a half this afternoon, spoke at length about his work as a prosecutor during the late 80s and early 90s, detailing the long hours, the intensive interviewing, and the violence plaguing the District. In response to Knight’s questions about his handling of witness vouchers, he said, “I did not do a good job.”
But Howes had it easy this afternoon. Tomorrow he has Herman’s cross examination to contend with. Stay tuned.