Just in case prosecutors around the world hadn't heard about the Ted Stevens case here in Washington, Lanny Breuer this week helped spread the word.
Breuer, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, noted the failed prosecution of Stevens in remarks Wednesday in Ukraine—yes, Ukraine—at the 14th annual conference of the International Association of Prosecutors. The trip abroad was Breuer's first as assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division.
Breuer noted the Stevens prosecution in a session about fairness in the pursuit of justice. In April, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. moved to dismiss the indictment against Stevens—post-conviction—after a review of the case revealed that Justice lawyers had failed to turn over certain notes to Stevens’ lawyers. The notes contradicted testimony from the government’s chief witness.
The “assurances of a fair conviction were lacking,” Breuer said. He called the jury’s verdict “tainted.”
“Dismissing the case was not an easy decision, but it was the right decision,” Breuer said in his prepared remarks. “Under our system of justice, the question was not whether Senator Stevens was in fact guilty; the question was whether he had been fairly convicted under our Constitution and the rules of criminal procedure.”
The Justice Department, Breuer said, is “committed to a fair and transparent process” that protects the rights of defendants. “Going forward, the Department will be re-training its prosecutors on our discovery obligations under the rules of criminal procedure and the Constitution,” Breuer said his remarks. “And we will work tirelessly to ensure that our prosecutors continue to adhere to the highest standards of ethics and fair play.”
The Stevens case was the only identified prosecution singled out in the remarks. Breuer also spoke about the department’s position that sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine should be eliminated.
“This is not necessarily the most popular position with law enforcement,” Breuer said. “But, it’s the right decision because it will help ensure that the public trusts and cooperates with law enforcement, and views the system as fair for all.”
The Justice Department is a member of the International Association of Prosecutors, which is based in the Netherlands. Members include prosecutors and organizations with whom the Justice Department works through mutual legal assistance treaties and through the department's International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, among other programs.
For a copy of Breuer's remarks, click here.