PATTERN OF PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT IN PIERCE COUNTY CASES
Posted 7/16/2018 (Updated 8/12/2018)
by Kristine Erickson
Following is an excerpt from a May 9, 2018, Oregonian article: “The deputy prosecuting attorney on Heimlich’s case, John Neeb, can’t speak about a case that has been sealed. Speaking generally, Neeb told The Oregonian that he files charges only in cases ‘that I believe I can prove at trial.’ Neeb said juveniles who plead guilty detail their offense in writing. A judge also typically asks the juvenile to verbally acknowledge the crime at the time of a plea. ‘If a person who pled guilty says they’re innocent,’ Neeb said generally, ‘then they’re saying they lied to the judge at the time they entered their plea.
An innocent juvenile who hopelessly pleads guilty for lack of a better option has “lied to the judge?” What a contemptible statement from a prosecutor who knows 98% of all juveniles charged in Pierce County submit a guilty plea. Less than half of 1% of juveniles charged with an offense go to trial and win an acquittal (THREE per thousand). The other 1.7% don’t pass Go, don’t collect $200, and get hauled off to jail. The 98% who plead guilty at least have some bargaining power to get a probationary sentence. And John Neeb says this means the innocent ones are liars?
What kind of man would make such a despicable statement? In April 2013, a Washington State Court of Appeals panel ruled that deputy prosecutor John Neeb committed “multiple episodes of prosecutorial misconduct,” which included improperly shifting the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense, trivializing the reasonable doubt standard, and invoking the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks during his closing argument in the trial of a Muslim defendant. The appeals court ruling said Neeb’s misconduct was “so flagrant and ill-intentioned that no instruction could have erased their combined prejudicial effect.” As a result, the court vacated the conviction in the case.
John Neeb is cut from the same cloth as the Clackamas County district attorney who told the Oregonian that if Luke “had been sentenced when he was 15 in Oregon, he would still be in prison finishing his sentence.” On the Relevant Research page of this website, I feature a case in which the Clackamas County DA pursued outrageous charges against a 68-year-old grandmother with an unblemished record. Only a sensible grand jury stopped him from completely wrecking her life.
In the process of looking up John Neeb’s record, I discovered a larger pattern of misconduct in our local prosecutor’s office: Pierce County prosecutors lead state in cases overturned because of their ‘flagrant’ actions.
In the News Tribune study of the period from January 2013 through March 2015, 43% of all Washington State cases overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct were from Pierce County. Our county has only 12% of the state population. Does our county have an unusually high caseload? No. I checked the Washington Courts 2017 Caseload Report and found that cases filed in Pierce County comprise 12% of the total caseload for all counties in the state.
According to the News Tribune article, whom does the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney, Mark Lindquist, blame for the high percentage of misconduct-related reversals in cases prosecuted by his office? He blames the higher courts that reversed his prosecutors’ convictions.
An August 2015 Seattle Times article reported the results of a 3.5-year Associated Press study that found 57% of all overturned convictions in Washington State came from Pierce County.
Here’s a report on a whistleblower complaint from a 33-year veteran of the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office: Explosive Allegations in Pierce County Follow a Pattern of Misconduct
A Washington State Bar Association disciplinary hearing is a rare event, but apparently our chief prosecutor has no shame. After he lost the recent primary election by a 10-point margin (55% to 45%), his spokesman responded by saying, “Mark focused on his own record of making the community safer rather than his opponent’s serious ethical and professional defects.”