An Associated Press review of Washington cases reversed on appeal since 2012 due to prosecutor misconduct produced some alarming results: A disproportionate number of these cases were in Pierce County (17 out of 30). The Seattle Times highlighted this discovery in an article earlier this week.
Prosecutorial misconduct refers to conduct on the part of the prosecutor that violates court rules or ethical standards of law practice. Examples include but are not limited to:
- Courtroom misconduct (improper remarks or improper introduction of evidence; violating rules in jury selection; improper closing arguments; etc)
- Tampering with or destroying evidence or court documents
- Threatening or badgering witnesses
- Presenting false or misleading evidence
- Failure to disclose evidence that may lead to exoneration
- Selective or vindictive prosecution
- Denial of a speedy trial
- Unreliable or dishonest witnesses
The Seattle Times article provides examples of cases that were overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct in Pierce County. For instance, in a 2009 case about an ambush that left four police officers dead in Lakewood, the jury found the defendant guilty of driving the getaway car for the shooter. However, the verdict was reversed after it was found that the prosecutor misstated the law repeatedly during closing arguments, misleading the jury.
There have reportedly been a significant number or cases similar to this in Pierce County over the last several years. Prosecutorial misconduct by the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's office led to overturned convictions in kidnapping cases, murder, assault, burglary, and drug charges.
Steve Merrival, deputy prosecuting attorney filed a complaint with the state against Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist and a complaint with the Washington Bar Association against Lindquist and 6 deputy prosecutors. The claim is that Lindquist “pushes for wins at all costs”, including pushing the limits of justice and of the system. Lindquist is also facing petition for recall and several other legal complaints.
King 5 news reported that Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jay Roof listened to arguments this week regarding the recall of Mark Lindquist. Charges presented to the judge included vindictive prosecution, discriminatory hiring practices, and evading public disclosure laws.
Mark Lindquist denies all claims.
A decision from the judge is still forthcoming.