Prosecutor in Wrongful Conviction Case Accused of Misconduct
A Kansas man’s drug indictment was dismissed due to misconduct on behalf of the prosecutor, who is also facing allegations of misconduct in the wrongful conviction of Lamonte McIntyre.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson freed Gregory Orozco on Tuesday, saying that federal prosecutor Terra Morehead violated his right to a fair trial. A potential witness for Orozco, Jose Luis Ruiz-Salazar, was threatened by Morehead that if he testified in Orozco’s defense, she would make trouble for him in his pending case.
Morehead is also accused of witness intimidation and prosecutorial misconduct during her time as a Wyandotte County assistant prosecutor in the case of McIntyre, who spent 23 years in prison for a double murder he did not commit and was released just this past October.
In the order, Judge Robinson cited evidence that Morehead threatened to use her influence to complicate the witness’ own criminal case if he testified in defense of Orozco.
“The record reflects that Ruiz-Salazar was actually intimidated, and as a result did not testify in this case,” Robinson wrote.
According to the order, Morehead also waited until the day of Ortiz’s trial to turn over evidence that the illegal substance belonged to someone else.
Attorneys for McIntyre claim that Morehead intimidated a witness in his case by threatening to have her children taken away. They also allege that she withheld a statement from a relative of the victim in the case.
Barry Pollack, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told the Kansas City Star that prosecutors should face the same consequences as defense attorneys when they are found to have knowingly committed misconduct.
“If a defense attorney were ever to threaten a witness with these adverse consequences, there is no doubt in my mind the government would quickly charge that attorney with obstruction of justice,” Pollack told the Star. “There should be significant consequences each and every time.”
Read the Kansas City Star coverage here.
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