Thursday, July 2, 2009
The Minnesota Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom for discouraging a medical examiner from letting a co-worker to testify in a Washington County murder trial.
Backstrom will pay a $900 fine.
In a one-page decision, filed today, the state's highest court followed the disciplinary recommendation issued last month by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility.
The Minnesota Board of Public Defense filed the original complaint. The state public defenders argued that Backstrom overstepped his bounds by sending an e-mail to Dakota County Medical Examiner Lindsey Thomas telling her she could lose her job if she or one of the other doctors in her office testified for defense attorneys in neighboring counties.
Following the e-mail, a doctor in Thomas' office declined to testify as an expert witness for the defense in the Washington County murder trial of Nicole Beecroft, 19, who was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing her newborn daughter.
Backstrom accepted the recommendation of the Lawyers Board last month and agreed to the fine. He issued a public apology for sending the email, acknowledging that it gave the appearance he was interfering in an ongoing court trial.
"I did not intend to adversely impact the Washington County trial in any respect," Backstrom wrote. "However, sending this email at the time I did represented a lack of judgment on my part for which I apologize."
The court's order is linked here. Thanks to Professor Maury Landsman of the University of Minnesota Law School for advising us of this disciplinary action. (Mike Frisch)