An extraordinary brief filed last week in the U.S. Supreme Court has put the Justice Department in an awkward spot, Adam Liptak writes in the New York Times. The brief said federal prosecutors had violated the Constitution by failing to turn over evidence about a key witness. “Such an approach,” the brief said, “contributes to a harmful notion that the criminal justice system is a game, and that victory rather than justice is a prosecutor's goal.” The argument itself is not unusual. But the people making the argument are.
They include some 20 former Justice Department officials, including Michael B. Mukasey, who served as attorney general in the Bush administration. Their brief urged the Supreme Court to hear an appeal from George Georgiou, who was convicted in 2010 of securities fraud and related crimes. Georgiou says his conviction was tainted by violations of rules requiring prosecutors to turn over favorable evidence to the defense. Prosecutors had failed to provide Georgiou's lawyers with documents that showed that the key witness against him, a business partner turned government informant, had been taking drugs to combat mental health problems. Prosecutors said defense lawyers could have located the documents themselves.