Judge Jed Rakoff is a frequent critic of the federal criminal justice system. His article “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty” told the truth about a harsh federal criminal system. Today he is telling the truth again… this time about the DOJ’s forensic science policy which has landed the agency in hot water more than once over the past few years.
Rakoff was the only federal judge on a commission appointed by President Obama to improve forensic science in the criminal justice system.
Why did Rakoff quit the Commission? Because the DOJ wanted to adopt new policies that would decrease the amount of evidence exchanged pre-trial with defense lawyers. Police and prosecutors exert too much control over crime labs.
“Because I believe that this unilateral decision is a major mistake that is likely to significantly erode the effectiveness of the Commission — and because I believe it reflects a determination by the Department of Justice to place strategic advantage over a search for the truth — I have decided to resign from the Commission, effective immediately,” Rakoff wrote in an e-mail late Wednesday to fellow commissioners that spread rapidly in legal circles overnight.
“It is hard to escape the conclusion [that the decision] … is chiefly designed to preserve a courtroom advantage by avoiding even the possibility that Commission discussion might expose it as unfair,” Rakoff added.
Federal trials are already a one-sided affair in which the government holds the cards and unloads mountains of discovery on the defense at the last minute – conduct which is legally permitted. If the Commission is allowed to make the recommendations they want this is a trend that will only continue.