Pottawattamie County vs. McGhee: Most Important SCOTUS Decision In Decades

by Brian A. Wilkins
7/20/2009


Mr. Terry Harrington (pictured), along with Mr.
Curtis McGhee spent 25 years in prison for a
murder they did not commit. (AP Photo)

Maricopa County (Phoenix, AZ) prosecutors Lynn Krabbe and Heather Wicht: pay close attention. Both of you, along with many of your prosecutor cohorts, might want to start praying that U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice John Roberts can convince Justice Anthony Kennedy to “feel conservative” the day they decide Pottawattamie County v. McGhee, likely later this year. Though its pathetic, unconstitutional, and sad we, as American citizens, have to rely on our Supreme Court justices’ political affiliations (except for Kennedy) to decide certain cases, this one seems constitutionally cut-and-dried and should be affirmed by our highest court. The Supreme Court will decide whether Eleventh Amendment “absolute immunity” applies to state prosecutors when they violate a defendant’s due process rights by procurring and using false evidence and testimony during a trial.

This case revolves around Mr. Curtis McGhee, Jr. and Mr. Terry Harrington, who were both convicted in Pottawattamie County Court (Council Bluffs, Iowa) for the murder of retired cop John Schweer in 1978 and sentenced to life in prison. But in 2002, a prison barber named Anne Danaher got into a conversation with Mr. Harrington’s family outside of the Iowa State Penietentiary after they had visited Mr. Harrington.

Danaher obviously felt that there was more to the story than prosecutors presented at trial. Simply because of her heart and desire, Danaher discovered police reports which prosecutors David Richter and Joseph Hrvol withheld from the defense. These reports contained evidence of another possible suspect. Hrvol and Richter also presented false testimony at trial, aiding in Mr. Harrington and Mr. McGhee’s convictions. When this information was presented to the Iowa Supreme Court, the convictions were overturned. Then-governor Tom Vilsack granted Harrington bond and he was released from prison in April of 2003, while prosecutors decided whether they would retry the men. Pottawattamie County attorney Matthew Wilbur, realizing his old comrades were busted, ultimately dropped the charges against Harrington and sentenced McGhee to time served, finally freeing him from prison in November of 2003.

With 25 years of their lives stolen from them by thug prosecutors looking to convict two “black” teenagers by any means necessary (including lying), McGhee and Harrington filed a federal civil lawsuit against Pottawattamie County and scumbag prosecutors Hrvol and Richter, claiming, obviously, prosecutors violated their due process rights by fabricating and using false evidence against them, and withheld potentially exculpatory evidence.

Hrvol and Richter, of course, played their “absolute immunity” card in the U.S. District Court of Southern Iowa, and motioned for summary judgment, claiming they cannot be sued because they are almighty prosecutors. The district court disagreed and denied their motion. Richter and Hrvol appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals which found “immunity does not extend to the actions of a County Attorney who violates a person’s substantive due process rights by obtaining, manufacturing, coercing and fabricating evidence before filing formal charges, because this is not “a distinctly prosecutorial function.” Curtis McGhee, Jr. v. Pottawattamie County, 8th Cir., 2008. And now it is up to the United States Supreme Court, after granting certiorari on 4/20, to decide one simple question: whether fabricating evidence and using it against a defendant qualifies as a “prosecutorial function” which would entitle the perpetrating prosecutor to “absolute immunity”?

Many of you who follow this blog know my story because you’ve read many of the “55 Days In Maricopa County Jail” entries and/or watched the video. However, when a federal judge denied me habeas corpus, I was then forced to exhaust “Rule 32” proceedings (which I commenced on June 19) before a federal judge will hear my case. “Rule 32” is Arizona’s “collateral attack” method you can use as post-conviction relief for a wrongful conviction. Though there were at least five constitutional rights of mine violated throughout Maricopa County’s quest to play “nigger-criminal” games with me (all of which require reversal of conviction), there is one which is more disturbing than the others: Maricopa County prosecutor Lynn Krabbe lying in several court documents; first saying there were “multiple [alleged] victims” and further saying I had a prior criminal charge of “obtaining a fishing license by fraud,” both of which are blatantly false. And lets not forget Maricopa County prosecutor Heather Wicht, who is still trying to imprison Mr. Rodney Smith Jr., withholding the fact that she is the one who allowed the thugs who attacked Mr. Smith previously, to be set free, only to attack Mr. Smith again. And there is no telling what kind of bull Wicht told the grand jury in Mr. Smith’s case.

Prosecutors have, for too long, lied and blatantly fabricated evidence to convict innocent people so said prosecutors can maintain a high wining percentage, regardless of justice. Not only should the Supreme Court affirm the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Pottawattamie v. McGhee, but they should also make it criminal for prosecutors to knowingly deprived American citizens of life and liberty without due process (though we know that won’t happen). However, the threat of facing lawsuits at the same rate of inbred thug cops like Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio, would definitely make prosecutors think twice about simply lying to further their “winning percentage,” which is an all-to-common practice in U.S. courts. If the U.S. Constitution means anything, Pottawattamie will be affirmed and Americans would then have at least some leverage in forcing prosecutors to simply DO THEIR JOBS without malice. If the Supreme Court reverses this decision, they are effectively saying that state prosecutors can go to any lengths, including lying and fabricating evidence, to convict American citizens, in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. We’ll see if the Constitution actually means anything anymore, or if it is, as former President George W. Bush said, “just a goddamn piece of paper.”

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