Friday, November 2, 2018

Prosecutor Walks On Ethics Charges

The New Orleans Advocate reported on an order of the Louisiana Supreme Court dismissing ethics charge against a prosecutor

The Louisiana Supreme Court has dismissed ethics charges against a prosecutor who was accused of failing to disclose the shifting statements of a key witness at a Jefferson Parish murder trial.

The court said Monday that the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board was correct when it dropped claims of legal misconduct against Ken Dohre for his prosecution of Michael Williams, who spent 15 years in prison before a judge overturned his second-degree murder conviction.

An attorney for Dohre said the court’s decision is a vindication for his client, who is now a prosecutor under 22nd Judicial District Attorney Warren Montgomery in St. Tammany Parish.

 “Ken never did anything wrong, and it was the appropriate action for the court to take,” Basile Uddo said.
In a two-paragraph, unsigned decision upholding dismissal of the charges, the Supreme Court said it had considered the arguments of both sides.

Of the court’s seven justices, only Jefferson Hughes dissented.

The high court’s ruling ends the appeals process for the nonprofit Innocence Project New Orleans, which along with the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel hoped to suspend Dohre from the practice of law.

They said Dohre was careless or worse when he failed to inform the defense about the inconsistent statements of a witness ahead of Williams' trial for the stabbing death of Michelle Gallagher, a 25-year-old prostitute. Gallagher’s body was found dumped on River Road in Waggaman in March 1996.

Williams’ defense lawyer never knew that the sole witness, Christopher Landry, had previously given differing statements about where he said Williams dumped Gallagher’s body, and whether he knew what Williams was dumping.

Williams’ attorney argued that he was elsewhere at the time Gallagher’s body was dumped.

After Landry recanted his testimony, Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick Jr. dismissed the case in 2011.


A committee of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, which handles cases where lawyers are accused of violating ethics rules, recommended Dohre’s suspension for a year and a day in a March 2017 report. However, the full board recommended that no action be taken against Dohre.

Uddo, Dohre’s attorney, said his client had turned over all of Landry's statements to the judge overseeing the case before the trial. That judge reviewed the case file in private and found nothing that should be handed to the defense team, Uddo said.

Dohre had never before been the subject of a misconduct allegation, Uddo said.

The state Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which prosecutes claims of attorney misconduct, appealed the Attorney Disciplinary Board’s decision to the Supreme Court.

The Innocence Project New Orleans also filed a friend of the court brief, casting the case as part of a larger pattern of prosecutorial misconduct in Louisiana. That pattern has helped contribute to Louisiana’s unusually high rate of convictions that are overturned on appeal, the group said.

“Dohre cannot escape responsibility for his misconduct by shifting attention to what the trial court could have known and done in the case he was prosecuting,” the group said.

(Mike Frisch)

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