People v. Pomar | You May Be Able To Prevent The DA From Prosecuting You
The concept of conflicts of interest is not new in the legal world. This is especially true in criminal trials where the stakes are high. A conflict of interest occurs when someone’s personal interests or bias interferes with their ability to make impartial decisions that align with their professional obligations. However, as Pomar illustrates, one employee’s conflict of interest has the potential to disqualify an entire office from prosecuting a case. In the case of district attorney offices, it can lead to a miscarriage of justice by unfairly favoring one side over the other. For this reason, there are rules in place to be used as a guide for when district attorneys or their entire office should be “recused” from a case. Recused means the judge decides that their office cannot prosecute a certain person in a specific case.
The story of Brooke Jenkins’ role as Assistant District Attorney highlights the significance of ethical walls in the legal profession. Jerome Mallory, Jenkins’ husband’s cousin was killed, allegedly by Mitchell and Pomar. Following the death of Mallory, Jenkins was “walled off” from having any involvement in the murder prosecution of Mitchell and Pomar in an effort to prevent any conflict of interest. Despite being walled off from the case, after leaving the District Attorney’s Office, Jenkins made comments to reporters regarding how the case should be prosecuted. Later, Jenkins returned to the office and became the District Attorney. The District Attorney’s office then created an “ethical wall” to prevent her from influencing this case. An ethical wall is a way to keep someone from having access to confidential information pertaining to a case.
Despite the ethical wall implemented by the DA’s office, Mitchell and Pomar sought to disqualify the entire DA’s office from trying the case after they learned of Jenkins’ connection to Mallory and the comments she had previously made regarding the case.
The trial judge granted their recusal motions based on the insufficiency of the ethical wall. The trial court judge reasoned that the ethical wall was insufficient because of Jenkins’ previous comments to the reporter regarding Mitchell and Pomar’s case as well as her position of authority that allows her to discipline and fire Assistant District Attorneys. The trial court concluded that although the ethical wall would, in theory, prevent any bias within the District Attorney’s Office regarding this case, Jenkins’ position of power would still allow her to influence this case. This case illustrates precisely why ethical walls are crucial – they are designed to prevent even the appearance of a conflict of interest or impropriety.
This case highlights the potential risks that public criticism poses to an ethical wall. An ethical wall is a measure that separates individuals or groups who may have a conflict of interest from other members of an organization or team. An ethical wall is essential to maintaining impartiality and objectivity in legal proceedings. It is meant to prevent any undue influence on the decision-making process and ensure that justice is served.
However, as we have seen in the Jerome Mallory case, public comments from a prosecutor can compromise the wall. Public criticism from a prosecutor can undermine the impartiality of an ethical wall, creating the perception that their interests may not be solely focused on the objective delivery of justice. Therefore, ethical walls can only be effective if individuals are committed to ethical standards and understand the critical role they play in achieving justice.
Ethical walls are not infallible and can break down. They require each person’s commitment and cooperation to keep the separation intact. Even with an ethical wall in place, criticism from a prosecutor or other impartial behavior can undermine the wall’s foundation and ultimately lead to the disqualification.
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If you believe there is a conflict of interest with the District Attorney’s office in your criminal case, you need an aggressive defense attorney to fight for your freedom. With 40+ years of experience, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have helped thousands of clients win their cases or get their charges reduced to a lesser degree. We know the most effective defenses to argue on your behalf, and we will do everything in our power to help you achieve the best possible result in your case.
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