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Not all strings are neatly tied

Monday, Apr 13, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller


Republican Mark Zalcman formally withdrew his candidacy from the upcoming special election for the 18th District Congressional vacancy today.

With only 19 days granted to gather slightly more than 1000 valid voter signatures in order to gain ballot access, Zalcman stated that he was forced to withdra because he could not have reached the required number in the 19 days granted by the Governor Bruce Rauner. […]

He states that this was “done purposely by the Governor to insure that Darin LaHood would not have to face any grassroots opposition in the campaign.”

That’s pretty much everybody except for tea partier Mike Flynn and Kent Gray.

* But there is one loose end still out there. From an oppo dump and a subsequent Google search comes the case of Kendrick Weatherspoon

Weatherspoon was convicted in 2003 of being a felon in possession of a gun. On appeal, the court said Assistant U.S. Attorney Darin LaHood made improper statements during closing arguments. The court decided there was prosecutorial misconduct because LaHood vouched for the credibility of witnesses and encouraged the jury to convict in order to alleviate social problems.

The 32-page opinion said LaHood engaged in the same kind of vouching in two other cases in which convictions were overturned. (The U.S. attorney’s office later persuaded the appellate court to delete references to LaHood’s name and lose the term “recidivist conduct,” replacing it with “repeat-offender conduct,” which still sounds more like a criminal than a prosecutor.) […]

The court kicked the Weatherspoon case back for a new trial based on LaHood’s misconduct, and Weatherspoon pleaded guilty. […]

LaHood was “overworked and overwhelmed,” another prosecutor said. LaHood had four years of experience as a state prosecutor in Illinois, but both prosecutors said he needed better supervision in the federal system and didn’t get it, just as Bogden had admitted.

* From USA Today

Kendrick Weatherspoon was convicted in 2003 in U.S. District Court in Nevada of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial in 2005 because prosecutor Darin LaHood had made improper arguments at trial. LaHood told jurors they should believe the police officers who testified against Weatherspoon and should convict him because it would “make you comfortable knowing there’s not convicted felons carrying around semiautomatics.” The case was the third in two years in which the Appeals Court said improper statements by LaHood, son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, required it to overturn a conviction. […]

Weatherspoon had been sentenced originally to 10 years in federal prison. After the court overturned his conviction, the government entered a plea agreement with Weatherspoon, and he was sentenced to three years instead. Weatherspoon, who had been remanded in October 2003, was released in June 2006 on time served. Just two months after being freed, he tested positive for marijuana, a violation of his supervised release. Weatherspoon was subsequently returned to prison for 15 months. At the request of the U.S. attorney’s office, the Appeals Court deleted the name of LaHood, the prosecutor, from its opinion.

The full appellate opinion is here.

* Breitbart, where Mike Flynn once worked, is attempting to make hay of this in an article entitled “The Anti-Gun History of Man Who Wants to Replace Disgraced Aaron Schock”

When invalidating LaHood’s work on the case, Circuit Judge Stephen Trott—himself a former federal prosecutor—said LaHood crossed the line by arguing that jurors convict the accused in order to protect the community from an armed convicted felon.

“Trott’s politely brutal opinion,” the Las Vegas Review reported in 2009, “said Bogden recognized LaHood’s mistakes and ascribed them to lack of supervision on the part of Bogden’s office and LaHood’s lack of training and experience. Bogden told the court LaHood’s errors were because of a management failure in his office.”

Even though LaHood had four years of experience as a state prosecutor in Illinois, “he needed better supervision in the federal system and didn’t get it,” Nevada U.S. Attorney Dan Bogden said.

LaHood’s discredited tactic seems to denote an anti-gun sentiment behind his arguments.

* This was also an issue when LaHood unsuccessfully ran for Peoria County State’s Attorney. From a 2007 interview

Toward the end of our lunch, LaHood volunteered some criticism he expects to get from his opponent. There was a case he tried in Las Vegas that was overturned on appeal because of “prosecutorial misconduct.” The case was called United States v. Weatherspoon, and you can read the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion here. It was a 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel.

The “misconduct” to which the ruling refers is something called “vouching.” It’s where the prosecutor vouches for the credibility of the witnesses (in this case, police officers) in the case. To a layman like me, this sounds like no big deal, but apparently in legal circles it’s a no-no. Such an action “plac[es] the prestige of the government behind a witness,” and thus prejudices the jury against the defendant. It “invites the jury ‘to trust the Government’s judgment rather than its own view of the evidence.’”

In his defense to me, LaHood stated that he “makes no apologies” for being “aggressive” in his prosecutions. He said he had prosecuted over 1,000 cases and had only been reversed three times. The Ninth Circuit, he explained, is one of the most liberal appeals courts in the country (they were the ones who famously said that the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional), and other courts have found that statements like the ones he made were not considered vouching. He encouraged me and anyone else concerned about this issue to read the ruling for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

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  1. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Apr 13, 15 @ 11:13 am:

    Really don’t think that’s going to derail him. Not enough there.

  2. - 999exodus - Monday, Apr 13, 15 @ 11:20 am:

    This Darin La Hood’s birthright and for silly voters to think they have a say in who their next representative is plain crazy. Like La Hood’s revolting-door lobbyist father is going to let that happen?

  3. - Cheryl44 - Monday, Apr 13, 15 @ 11:32 am:

    Breitbart. Heh. That’s all I need.

  4. - West Side the Best Side - Monday, Apr 13, 15 @ 11:34 am:

    Read the opinion. ASUA LaHood is droppin’ his “g”s” like crazy in closin’ argument. Maybe if Bruce is supportin’ him it’s because he’s identifyin’ with him.

  5. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Apr 13, 15 @ 11:57 am:

    If this kind of conduct were truly unacceptable former USA Fitzgerald and most of his top trial assistants would be sharing cells with Rod.

  6. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Apr 13, 15 @ 12:05 pm:

    ==At the request of the U.S. attorney’s office, the Appeals Court deleted the name of LaHood, the prosecutor, from its opinion==.

    Protecting their own, as always.

  7. - Upon Further Review - Monday, Apr 13, 15 @ 12:46 pm:

    It does not say much about an elected official’s political operation if they cannot gather 2,500 signatures in slightly less than three weeks.

    Sorry Zalcman.

  8. - Todd - Monday, Apr 13, 15 @ 1:20 pm:

    If memory serves me correctly, Darrin carries an A rating with NRA so the brebart thing is a bit off

  9. - laughs out loud - Monday, Apr 13, 15 @ 2:11 pm:

    Come on. The most liberal and out of the mainstream circuit, the 9th circuit, finding misconduct, by the prosecutor is meaningless.

  10. - Team Sleep - Monday, Apr 13, 15 @ 3:04 pm:

    Well…if Senator LaHood’s track record of only have 3 out of 1,000 case decisions reversed, that is pretty solid work.

    Mark Zalcman said the same thing after he failed to garner enough VALID sigs to challenge Rep. Leitch. Seems to me he is an excuse-maker.

    Really - if you think about it - 1,000 signatures in 19 days is not tough. You are asking yourself and your crew to average (as a buffer) about 75 signatures a day. And if you hit key areas in busy areas like Peoria or Bloomington, then the task is easier. I would bet that Mr. Zalcman did not have any help or “friends” willing to pound the pavement on his behalf. He could have gotten the signatures himself if he can busted his butt during two Saturdays and two Sunday afternoons.

  11. - x ace - Monday, Apr 13, 15 @ 3:25 pm:

    Reversals generally occur after Trials.

    Note, claim is prosecuted , not tried 1,000 cases.

    So Question is : 3 Reversals in how many Trials ?

  12. - JoanP - Monday, Apr 13, 15 @ 5:00 pm:

    “LaHood’s discredited tactic seems to denote an anti-gun sentiment behind his arguments.”

    Oh, this is just silly. Prosecutors do this sort of thing ALL THE TIME. It’s not confined to gun cases, and the only “sentiment” it denotes is a “win at any cost” sentiment.

    And this stuff about “only 3 reversals” means nothing, because appellate courts frequently find prosecutorial misconduct but affirm anyway. It has to be pretty egregious before they’ll reverse.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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