Wrongfully Convicted Man Sues Over Prosecutorial Misconduct

Jabar Collins was released from prison last year after serving 16 years for murder. He's now filed a lawsuit claiming the Brooklyn District Attorney's office under DA Charles Hynes routinely engaged in misconduct.

Michael F. Vecchione, a top assistant in the district attorney’s office, was accused of improperly using court orders to detain witnesses, physically threatening them and coercing them into providing false testimony that would benefit the prosecution’s case.

The 106 page lawsuit alleges these illegal practices were widespread in cases prosecuted by Hynes' office.

When a subpoena is issued, it is to appear in court, at a specific day and time when a hearing or trial is scheduled. It is not acceptable to subpoena someone to the DA's office for an interview. If the DA thinks a witness won't testify and a material witness warrant is necessary, the person picked up on the warrant should be brought before the court and provided counsel to challenge the warrant and seek bail, not brought to the DA's office for interrogation and threatened with jail unless they cooperate. [More...]

Those are some of the allegations in the Collins suit. They are especially troubling because most people on the receiving ends of these subpoenas and material witness warrants don't know they have rights or that their rights are being violated.

What does Mr. Vecchione have to say for himself? "Whatever the press office said is what I’m saying,” he said. "

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    SPELLING ALERT (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Anne on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 01:01:56 PM EST
    Jeralyn - you have transposed the "c" and the "u" in "Prosecutorial."

    Great post, by the way...

    thanks, fixed now (none / 0) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 06:40:07 PM EST
    I was a lawyer at Legal Aid in Brooklyn (5.00 / 0) (#9)
    by fuzzyone on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 04:23:21 PM EST
    in the early 90s, exactly the period that seems to be at issue and I can tell you that they did this kind of thing all the time.  They would subpoena both records and witnesses to come to their office instead of the court.  You could complain but most judges really did not care.  The real solution is for judges to grow some backbone and hold some ADAs or even the DA in contempt but that is not likely to happen.  That courthouse is more like a clubhouse.

    The Problem (none / 0) (#10)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 04:51:44 PM EST
    Before I comment, can you ignore a subpoena that directs you to their office and not the court ?  If so, can they subpoena you anywhere ?  

    By the time the real egregious stuff comes to the light of day, too much time has gone by.  Pretty hard to go after people that have moved on, physically moved, or in a lot of these cases, retired.

    They never go after the real problem, the system itself that essentially puts the life of the individual in the hands of one, be it a cop, a defense attorney, a witness, a judge, or recently in Houston, a crime lab jockey.

    It only takes one bad person in the system to ruin many lives, that IMO is a huge flaw when you consider their livelihood is generally tied to convictions.

    Seems like a field in which statical analysis could root out the flaws fairly quickly.  Find the anomalies and investigate.  


    You can challenge the subpoena (none / 0) (#11)
    by fuzzyone on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 06:29:07 PM EST
    Ignoring it could be risky.  Technically its probably not valid but the smarter thing to do is to go to court and move to quash.  The problem is they were using these on witnesses who were unsophisticated and lacked resources and were not likely to take the risk or even understand that there was anything wrong with the subpoena.

    I really hope this has legs (none / 0) (#1)
    by ruffian on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 12:45:06 PM EST

    Any predictions? (none / 0) (#3)
    by republicratitarian on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 01:32:45 PM EST
    Harmless error?

    The man doesn't like to hold the man accountable.


    The usual outcome... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 02:06:09 PM EST
    is a settlement...Vecchione does the crime, NYC taxpayers do the time.

    Though in fairness you could say the people of NYC are the criminal kingpin here...via the leaders they elect and brand of "law & order" they allow, Vecchione is just the hired muscle, so maybe the people should do the time.


    I have one slight (none / 0) (#5)
    by Zorba on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 02:14:13 PM EST
    addition to make, kdog.  "NYC taxpayers" don't just "do the time,"  they do the dime.  Lot's and lots of dimes, since they wind up paying for any settlement reached.  But other than that, yes, it's all true.  When the taxpayers get tired of ponying up for the misdeeds of their leaders (and those whom the leaders hire), maybe they'll elect better leaders.  (Although, in truth, I'm not holding my breath.)

    Thats what I meant... (5.00 / 0) (#6)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 02:19:46 PM EST
    poorly worded on my part...our dimes as the time.

    Though I wouldn't put it past the authoritarians to draw names at random from the phone book to serve actual sentences for crimes committed by the state...the people upstate need jobs and all the factories are closed...just human warehouses now and they need inventory.


    I've said it before (none / 0) (#7)
    by republicratitarian on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 02:32:59 PM EST
    It's like the those at all levels of the system it seems, prosecutors, DA's, judge's, courts; all go out of their way to justify the governments actions.
    Imagine the repercussions if the government were actually held to the standard it's citizens were.

    Yes, that is what I hope too (5.00 / 0) (#8)
    by ruffian on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 03:09:34 PM EST
    Maybe they'll figure out that sure justice is better than swift justice.

    I fear the press will always be asking 'why haven't you arrested anyone yet?' however.