Murkowski: Stevens Case "Fatally Mismanaged from the Get-Go"

Senator Testifies before Judiciary Committee, Urging Legal Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today sat as a witness before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, pressing her Senate colleagues to consider overhauling the Department of Justice procedures through legislation she introduced in March.  Her bill, S.2197 the Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act, would create a national standard of rules for prosecutors to abide by in terms of sharing information with the defense teams they are facing.

Murkowski was compelled to introduce this legislation after the systematic concealment of evidence by Justice Department prosecutors during the investigation of Senator Ted Stevens in 2008 – abuse that rose to a level where Attorney General Eric Holder threw out the case within months of the case’s conclusion.

Senator Murkowski drew a stark picture of the need for the reforms within her bill, saying “This is truly one of the darkest moments in the Justice Department’s history. We are no longer able to do justice to Senator Stevens. He was defeated and died less than two years later. But we can, through reforms, make a start on ensuring that the same fate does not befall other defendants.” (Clip One)


Click here for entire testimony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0eqw0YgdOE

Senator Murkowski also indicated concern that in the months since she introduced her bill, she has not seen cooperation or interest on the part of the Justice Department (Clip Two), adding:

“My suggestion to the Justice Department is that they express a willingness to work with me and the committee on a set of unified Brady practices that can be legislated. If the Justice Department thinks that S.2197 is not sufficiently balanced or protective of some interest or another, perhaps they could propose a concept that would make it more balanced.  I am sad to say that since S.2197 was introduced in March I had no direct contact from the Justice Department until yesterday when Mr. Cole called me to discuss this hearing. This sort of treatment leaves me to believe that the Justice Department does not take this effort seriously and I hope we would all be deeply disappointed if that were the case. That smacks of arrogance.

“I would respectfully submit that the Justice Department is in no position to be arrogant. The latest chapter in the Ted Stevens prosecution demonstrates that beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Every time I read a post mortem on the Stevens prosecution, I am left more convinced that it was fatally mismanaged from the get-go and the Justice Department’s unwillingness to stop it from going to the jury, despite a plethora of red flags that justice had not been done, is unconscionable.”

Prior to Senator Murkowski’s testimony, both chairs of the Judiciary Committee – Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) spoke of the nation’s critical need for trust in America’s system of justice.

Senator Leahy said “What happened to Senator Stevens can never happen again – whether the person’s name is Ted Smith or Ted Stevens.” Pulling no punches, Senator Grassley expressed grave concern of the “double standard of discipline” at the Justice Department.

Senator Leahy and Senator Grassely