#1 Harrison Jack Case
If prosecutors thought that dismissing all charges against lead defendant and Hmong American leader General Vang Pao in 2009 would quiet the protests, they were badly mistaken. In an unprecedented show of support, thousands have continued to mass in protest against the government's Harrison Jack prosecution at every court appearance. See 10/16/10 Post.
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In early October, the Court approved the government's deferred prosecution dismissal of another defendant Youa True Vang. 10/7/10 Dismissal. The bombshell came the next month when, in this 44-page Opinion, 11/12/10, U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell, Jr. dismissed about half the government's case (counts 4, 5, and most of count 1).
The government let the 30-day period to appeal the dismissed counts expire so the defendants now face a substantially weakened indictment. With up to two weeks of evidentiary hearings scheduled to begin February 28, 2011 where its agents will face rigorous questioning from the court and defense, the government should be re-evaluating whether continued prosecution is warranted. Even if some or all of the remaining case survives the motion hearings, the government faces a lengthy, complex jury trial on questionable charges. In these times of limited resources, the Department of Justice must decide whether it is worth the time, manpower, and taxpayer money to continue to pursue a prosecution that almost no one outside of the EDCA U.S. Attorney's Office believes is justified. See also Roger Warner, "When Terrorism Becomes a Farce," Huffington Post, 10/24/2010.
On a final note for 2010, for all its faults, flaws, and mistaken verdicts, I wouldn't trade our right to a jury trial for any other criminal justice system in the world. In Russia, the government and prosecutors have dismissed juries mid-trial if it appears the jury is leaning towards acquittal. New York Times, 12/28/10. Not a bad strategy where skeptical juries return not guilty verdicts 15-20% of the time while professional judges acquit in less than 1% of cases. By injecting common sense and community norms into the judicial system, juries provide an indispensible check on government power and unjust prosecutions. Let's hope they never go away.