January 13, 2012
Victim Controlled Plea Bargain; Prosecutor Sanctioned
A deputy prosecuting attorney who "surrender[ed] her prosecutorial discretion in plea negotiations entirely to the pecuniary demands of the victim of the crime" was sanctioned with a public reprimand by the Indiana Supreme Court.
The court found that the conduct involved a prohibited conflict of interest and was prejudicial to the administration of justice.
The defendant had bounced a series of checks to the victim. The deputy prosecutor allowed the victim (a business) to negotiate restitution far in excess of the amount of the checks. The court found that the victim was able to use the criminal process to obtain advantage in its civil claims.
The court noted that a victim is permitted to have significant input in the plea bargaining process. Here, the deputy prosecutor engaged in misconduct by ceding to the victim absolute control of the negotiations concerning the plea.
The court rejected the claim that the deputy prosecutor was adhering to office policy and thus was protected by Rule 5.2(b), which provides:
A subordinate lawyer does not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct if that lawyer acts in accordance with a supervisory lawyer's reasonable resolution of an arguable question of professional duty.
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