After Chief District Judge Michael O'Hara admonished the District Attorney's Office for "flagrant and preposterous" discovery violations in a sexual assault case, District Attorney Bonnie Roesink's job got a little tougher.
Now, instead of solely focusing on putting bad guys away, she has to spend time trying to restore the public's confidence in her office. Roesink has admitted that her office mishandled the case. After O'Hara reduced a felony sexual assault charge to a misdemeanor, Roesink dropped the case. While making his ruling after a lengthy motions hearing, O'Hara implored the District Attorney's Office to implement safeguards that would prevent a similar situation from occurring.
The judge seemed concerned that the District Attorney's Office did not elevate its obligation to follow the rules of due process in such a high-profile case.
Such concerns give us pause. With that much at stake, a lack of ethical considerations raises serious questions about whether prosecutors have cut corners or withheld evidence in other, less publicized cases. Public defender Sheryl Uhlmann deserves credit for doggedly pursing what turned out to be a very real problem.
That said, the district attorney has agreed to review the department's procedures for sharing evidence with defense lawyers. Roesink plans to meet with police officers and the Public Defender's Office to ensure that there is no repeat of the evidence problems that plagued this rape case.