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Letter: Some cases merit the use of a special prosecutor

Some cases merit the use of a special prosecutor

The state District Attorneys Association and its chairman, Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, misses the point and/or misrepresents the facts regarding police civilian shootings and the need for a special prosecutor.

Consider the opposition, the district attorneys and New York City’s Police Benevolent Association; and proponents, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman.

Consider the arguments against the special prosecutor, “Gravely flawed and invites serious legal issue.” Fix it. “It’s the elevation of politics over policy.” What policy is being defended by opposing a special prosecutor whenever there is a police shooting of an unarmed black man? Finally, “There’s no factual basis for the claim that prosecutors cannot fairly present these cases.” Show me the statistical evidence that demonstrates the successful prosecution of police officers charged with shooting an unarmed black man. How does that statement square with the shootings and headlines of the last year, examples, Eric Garner, Michael Brown?

The shooting of an unarmed black man is a special circumstance that should require an independent investigation separate and unrelated to the local law enforcement agency implicated in the shooting. The investigation should be conducted with deliberate speed and should be transparent and reported to the community at the earliest possible stage, without jeopardizing the integrity of the investigation.

Any time a prosecutor fails to win an indictment there are serious questions that should be raised about the process. Having worked as a county prosecutor I can attest to the contamination, pollution of objectivity that results from the daily interaction between local law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office. The working relationship creates a level of reliance and trust not found with civilian witnesses and defendants. And let’s not be naive about the thin blue line among members of the law enforcement community that makes investigating one’s own very challenging.

The issue is trust and confidence in the process, the integrity of our criminal justice system. The more open and transparent the better. Let police-civilian killings be investigated without any hint of bias.

Leonard G. Brown, JD, LLM