No phone call from SPM today unfortunately, but there is an interesting case out of Harris County this week. Dr. Robert Yetman was on trial for supposedly fondling a 7 year old patient; as the trial progressed it began to look like he was going to be acquitted. The prosecutor began purposefully breaking the court rules by bringing up evidence that had been excluded by a motion in limine, suggesting that Yetman had abused the child because of his race, and eventually implying that the court itself was working against the victim.
She did this knowing that the defense lawyer would be forced to request a mistrial, because if broken rules aren’t brought up immediately in court they can’t be used on appeal. The mistrial was denied each time, until the prosecutor started suggesting the judge was against the victim; at that point the judge declared a mistrial and wrote a scathing ‘finding of fact’, laying out the prosecutor’s misconduct.
Remember, the prosecutor’s job is not to win; it’s to serve justice. By her actions she showed that it did not matter to her if the system we have in place declared this man innocent; he was going to be convicted by any means necessary. Whether this was because she believed him to be guilty or because she simply wanted a win is irrelevant. It seems highly unlikely to me that this is the first time she, or any other Harris County Prosecutor pulled this stunt; and remember, the judge allowed prejudicial statements three times before finally acting.
Yetman’s case remains up in the air; the judge cannot dismiss the charges and the DA’s office has said that they intend to appeal the mistrial. It will be interesting to see where Harris County finally draws the line on prosecutorial misconduct.