Justice Withheld Series
The News & Observer: North Carolina:
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Bonnie M. Wells
State Bar Accuses 2 Of Misconduct
Joseph Neff, Staff Writer
The N.C. State Bar has charged two former prosecutors with lying, cheating and withholding evidence in a 1996 murder case that ended in a death sentence.
The State Bar last week filed the charges of prosecutorial misconduct against Kenneth Honeycutt, the former district attorney of Union County, and his assistant, Scott Brewer. Charges of prosecutorial misconduct have been rare at the state bar; four prosecutors have been disciplined in the past decade.
The bar charged that Honeycutt and Brewer each committed 23 violations of the rules that govern lawyers. Honeycutt and Brewer lied to the trial judge, the jury and the defense lawyers and knowingly used false evidence at the trial, the bar charged. If they are found guilty in a hearing before the bar, punishment could range from a written reprimand to the loss of their law licenses.
A former president of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, Honeycutt was known as an aggressive prosecutor and a leader in cracking down on domestic violence. He often wore a golden lapel pin shaped like a hangman's noose in court and handed out the pins to assistant prosecutors when they won death penalty cases. The screensaver on his office computer summed up his courtroom manner: "Attack, attack always attack!"
Honeycutt retired from his job as district attorney in October after an unsuccessful run for the state House of Representatives. Brewer is now a District Court judge based in Rockingham. Neither Honeycutt, Brewer nor their lawyers returned phone calls Tuesday. In the past, Honeycutt has called the charges spurious.
The charges stem from the case of Jonathan Hoffman, who was sentenced to death in 1996 for the robbery and murder of Danny Cook, a jewelry store owner in Marshville, southeast of Charlotte.
Hoffman's case was the subject of a November 2003 article in The News & Observer. In April 2004, Hoffman won a new trial after 7 1/2 years on death row.
The key evidence against Hoffman was provided by a cousin, Johnell Porter, who was facing long prison terms in South Carolina and in federal prison.
According to the bar's complaint, Honeycutt agreed to reward Porter for his testimony at trial with immunity from state and federal prosecutions, money and a reduction in his federal sentence.
Honeycutt delivered on his promise, according to the court papers and the bar's complaint:
* Porter's prison sentences were reduced by at least 15 years.
* He was not prosecuted for at least a dozen serious crimes in Charlotte.
* He pocketed several thousand dollars in reward money.
Honeycutt and Brewer have run into trouble because they hid the deal from the jury, the trial judge and Hoffman's lawyers. The bar said that Honeycutt removed references to cutting a deal from a document he gave the judge before trial.
A Standard To Uphold
Under a standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court, prosecutors must disclose any concessions or immunity they give to witnesses. That information allows a jury to assess truthfulness: Is the witness trading testimony for favors?
The trial judge had ordered Honeycutt and Brewer to disclose any and all deals with Porter.
"Honeycutt falsely advised Judge Helms, in Brewer's presence, that the State had revealed all concessions and immunity deals," the complaint said. "Brewer did not correct Honeycutt's false statements."
Hoffman is in Central Prison, awaiting his retrial.
The State Bar came under criticism last year for how it handled the disciplinary case against two prosecutors who withheld evidence of innocence from former death row inmate Alan Gell. Rob Hale, one of Hoffman's former lawyers, commended the bar for a thorough investigation in the Hoffman case.
"The State Bar hasn't left out any of the wrongdoing we found in our investigation of the case," Hale said.
No date has been set for the bar's hearing on the charges against Honeycutt and Brewer.
Staff writer Joseph Neff can be reached at 829-4516 or
Bar Calls Ex-DAs' Actions Felonies
Evidence Withheld In '96 Murder Case
The News & Observer:
Joseph Neff, Staff Writer
The N.C. State Bar has challenged the dismissal of disciplinary charges against two former Union County prosecutors, saying they committed felonies to win a death penalty conviction.
Kenneth Honeycutt and Scott Brewer were charged with lying, cheating and withholding evidence in the 1996 murder trial. Honeycutt, the former district attorney in Union County, has since returned to private practice; Brewer is now a District Court judge in Richmond County. Last week, the bar's Disciplinary Hearing Commission cited a missed deadline in dismissing the case against them.
But the bar's lawyers say there is no deadline to bring charges because the alleged misconduct of the prosecutors includes multiple felonies.
Honeycutt was once president of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys. On Thursday, the current president said the charges shouldn't be dismissed on technicalities -- and called for a criminal investigation.
"It's extremely distressing to us that these issues are not resolved," said Branny Vickory, Wayne County district attorney. "The allegations are so serious that, for public confidence in the system, they need to be dealt with on the merits, not on procedural grounds. ... This only adds to public distrust."
Lawyers for Honeycutt and Brewer did not return phone calls Thursday.
Lane Williamson, a Charlotte lawyer who chaired the three-member disciplinary panel that heard the case, has declined to comment. Last week, he called the deadline rule "hopelessly ambiguous" and asked the state bar to submit Wednesday's memorandum.
He said last week that the memorandum could affect the written ruling but that it was unlikely.
The case stems from the trial of Jonathan Hoffman, who was sentenced to death for the robbery and murder of Danny Cook, a jewelry store owner in Marshville, southeast of Charlotte. Hoffman's case was the subject of a November 2003 article in The News & Observer.
In April 2004, Hoffman won a new trial after 7 1/2 years on death row. The key evidence against Hoffman was provided by a cousin, Johnell Porter, who was facing long prison terms in South Carolina and in federal prison.
The bar said that Honeycutt agreed to reward Porter for his testimony at trial with immunity from state and federal prosecutions, money and a reduction in his federal sentence.
Porter said in a recent interview that he made up the testimony about Hoffman in order to get the deal.
Porter's prison sentences were reduced by at least 15 years. He was not prosecuted for at least a dozen serious crimes in Charlotte. And he pocketed several thousand dollars in reward money.
The bar charged that Honeycutt and Brewer hid the deal from the jury, the trial judge and Hoffman's lawyers, lied to Judge William Helms and concealed the deal by altering documents they gave to the judge.
State Bar Counsel Carolin Bakewell wrote in a memo filed late Wednesday that those acts were obstruction of justice -- and a felony because the prosecutors acted with deceit and intent to defraud.
Honeycutt and Brewer intentionally caused Porter to commit perjury on the stand, another felony, Bakewell wrote. The prosecutors allowed Porter to lie on the witness stand about the extent of his favorable treatment, she said.
The State Bar only has the power to suspend or revoke law licenses; it cannot start a criminal investigation or bring criminal charges.
Vickory said that would be up to Attorney General Roy Cooper. Union County District Attorney Michael Parker would likely have a conflict of interest because he worked for Honeycutt for years, including the time when Hoffman was tried.
"This goes to the heart of how the public perceives the court system," Vickory said. "The charges deserve a criminal investigation."
In an e-mail statement, a spokeswoman said Cooper was out of the office: "We typically initiate investigations at the request of local law enforcement or the local district attorney."
Staff writer Joseph Neff can be reached at 829-4516 or
MEMO URGES CHARGES
From the State Bar prosecutors' memo urging a disciplinary panel to reinstate civil charges against former Union County prosecutors Kenneth Honeycutt and Scott Brewer:
The State Bar's disciplinary commission is expected to release the written ruling on the dismissal of the bar's charges soon. Either side can appeal that decision to the N.C. Court of Appeals.
"... Brewer and Honeycutt's conduct in intentionally defrauding and deceiving Judge [William] Helms by providing him with doctored evidence, assuring Judge Helms that all notes of their contacts with Porter had been turned over, and concealing the redactions from Judge Helms, for the purpose of preventing [Jonathan] Hoffman from receiving information to which he was constitutionally entitled in a capital murder trial, constitutes felonious obstruction of justice."
"... Brewer and Honeycutt knew [Johnell] Porter had received numerous concessions in exchange for his testimony against Hoffman, nonetheless put Porter on the stand to testify falsely in Hoffman's trial that the only concession he received in exchange for his testimony was an agreement to inform the federal court of his substantial assistance, and then did not correct Porter's testimony which they knew to be false. Their conduct is subornation of perjury, a Class I felony."
Bonnie M. Wells
The Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Does this not also apply to prosecuting attorney's?
Quote: "Kenneth Honeycutt and Scott Brewer were charged with lying, cheating and withholding evidence.... The bar charged that Honeycutt and Brewer each committed 23 violations of the rules that govern lawyers. Honeycutt and Brewer lied to the trial judge, the jury and the defense lawyers and knowingly used false evidence at the trial, the bar charged. If they are found guilty in a hearing before the bar, punishment could range from a written reprimand to the loss of their law licenses." / end quote/
What about prosecution? If a common person - without "knowledge of the law" was to act in this same manner, they would end up in prison. Remember - "Ignorance of the law is no excuse?" Why are the very people entrusted with "the law" immune from prosecution? Are they - or have we all been misled into believing that they are simply because too many judges condone what the attorney's are doing, and no one has ever actually challenged them. I say it's time for a "challenge of the people, by the people and for the people!"
If a doctor, nurse, or any other "licensed" individual were to behave in such a manner, they would certainly receive far more than a "license suspension or a written reprimand!
Why should anyone be "immune from prosecution" if they have committed crimes? They shouldn't. And neither should any criminal be given "reward money," for his testimony.
In my opinion, any person - lawyer or otherwise - that lies in order to get an innocent person convicted of a crime - when the lie is discovered, that person should automatically receive the innocent person's sentence, as well as a hefty fine of $10,000.00 or more, depending on the severity of the case.
The above story is but one example of why many people do not believe in the death penalty. How can we trust corrupt individuals to administer fair and honest justice to the rest of us?? How can we trust them at all?
Dictionary: Perjury - 1. the willful telling of a lie while under lawful oath or affirmation to tell the truth in a matter material to the point of inquiry; 2. the breaking of any oath or formal promise.
Isaiah 59:4 - "None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: They trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity."