by Kristine Erickson
Update posted 8/6/2018
Today’s update documents ways in which the June 8, 2017, Oregonian articles about Luke violated the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists.
If you agree with the opinions I express in my article, I encourage you to email it along with your comments to the media in your region. Below the article, I’m providing a list of the best media email addresses I can find. You may be able to find better ones locally.
Update posted 7/24/2018
Today I’m opening a small window into the world of the junior high playground bullies who now dominate sports media. We are currently in a race for the bottom, and witnessing the media carpet bombing of the Heimlich family has spurred me to take a stand against this vigilante mob. The headline below links to the page containing my first article on this subject. Warning: Don’t proceed if an F-bomb offends you.
Update posted 7/21/2018
Today I’m responding to an article recently posted on Medium, in which Julie DiCaro, a Chicago sports radio host and former lawyer, repeated many of the persistent falsehoods about Luke’s case. Representing herself as a legal authority, she influenced the opinions of thousands of people despite her abject ignorance of Washington State law and juvenile injustice in general. The headline below links to the page containing my response:
Update posted 7/20/2018
On July 16, the Oregon State University student newspaper, The Daily Barometer, published an editorial that regurgitated old false and misleading information about Luke’s case and chastised OSU baseball fans for “lionizing Heimlich.”
Needless to say, Beavers baseball fans, many of whom have taken the time to learn the truth about Luke’s case, didn’t take kindly to this pretentious put-down by student editors. To add insult to injury, the editorial ran over 1000 words, whereas the Daily Barometer news report about the Beavers baseball team winning the College World Series was a mere 150 words. The student newspaper has since been roasted by email, on social media, and by comments under the article on the Daily Barometer website.
Today I received a copy of a powerful response letter written by Martin Meyer, an Olympia, Washington, attorney with over 30 years of experience, who has represented thousands of juveniles in court.
“If I can get you to stop proselytizing to your community long enough to climb down off your moral high horses, maybe I can engage all of you in a little education and, perhaps, persuade you to see this case through a different lens.”
The letter gets even better. Just reading it pinned my ears back, and I was grateful it isn’t directed at me. Go, Martin!
Update posted 7/18/2018
I have now completed a study of Washington State Superior Court Caseload Reports for 2012 through 2017. During those six years, nearly 4700 kids submitted guilty pleas in the Pierce County Juvenile Court. A total of 105 kids insisted on a trial, where 89 were adjudicated guilty, one got his case dismissed, and 15 were acquitted.
Out of 4800 kids in six years, fifteen managed to prove their innocence. No wonder lawyers urge juveniles to let them use what little bargaining power they have to arrange a plea agreement and get probation instead of incarceration.
To all who now condemn Luke Heimlich to a life sentence based on his guilty plea at the age of 16, may your ultimate judge be more merciful than his was.
Update Posted 7/16/2018
PATTERN OF PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT IN PIERCE COUNTY CASES
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. The other 1.5% 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.
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
To all Pierce County readers, please vote for Mary Robnett for Prosecuting Attorney in the August 7 election and urge your family and friends to do the same. It’s time to restore trust in and respect for our Prosecutor’s Office.