I Don't Like Prosecutors
Credit: Gage Skidmore
January 13, 2016

You probably never heard of Terrence McCracken. He was a teenager wrongly convicted of murder in the 1983 shooting and killing of a suburban deli owner outside Philadelphia.

At first, as a reporter, I was deeply cynical about the kid's innocence. The more I learned, the more cynical I became -- not about Terry (as he was known), but about the Delaware County DA, one Bill F. Ryan Jr.

When Terry was finally acquitted some 13 years later, a reporter asked Ryan if he would prosecute John Robert Turcotte, identified by witnesses as the man who actually did the shooting. His response?

Ryan said there was "barely a scintilla of evidence" against Turcotte and that he would not be prosecuted.

"It would be absurd," he said.

This, even though they caught Turcotte after another robbery with the same gun that killed the original victim.

So when David Brooks writes about Ted Cruz's similar disinterest in a case he prosecuted as Texas solicitor general, I am not at all surprised.

In 1997, Michael Wayne Haley was arrested after stealing a calculator from Walmart. This was a crime that merited a maximum two-year prison term. But prosecutors incorrectly applied a habitual offender law. Neither the judge nor the defense lawyer caught the error and Haley was sentenced to 16 years.

Eventually, the mistake came to light and Haley tried to fix it. Ted Cruz was solicitor general of Texas at the time. Instead of just letting Haley go for time served, Cruz took the case to the Supreme Court to keep Haley in prison for the full 16 years.

Some justices were skeptical. “Is there some rule that you can’t confess error in your state?” Justice Anthony Kennedy asked. The court system did finally let Haley out of prison, after six years.

Prosecutors are not supposed to seek wins that make them politically popular. They are supposed to seek justice. What a joke. That's why I don't vote for them.

A few years ago, I made a rare exception and voted for Democrat Kathleen Kate as Pennsylvania attorney general. What was I supposed to do? She won the nomination.

Now she's a laughing stock who's been stripped of her license to practice law, and is the target of a criminal investigation.

Are they mean and crazy when they become prosecutors, or do the political demands of the job change them? Your guess is as good as mine.

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