Today’s edition of The News & Observer contains an article by Anne Blythe titled, “New trial sought in murder case that used SBI blood tests.” It briefly covers a motion that was filed in federal court yesterday that is seeking a new trial for George Goode. Initially sentenced to death for the double murder of a Johnston County couple nearly two decades ago, a judge recently threw out the death sentence because of “ineffective counsel.” Now Goode is under a sentence of two life sentences. His defense is that he was present and witnessed the murder of the couple, but was paralyzed with fear at the homicidal actions of two others.
N & O staff writer Anne Blythe, in her article, is in full compliance with the media’s PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) Policy, as she never mentions the name of the prosecutor who sought the most extreme penalty for a man who was linked to the murder solely on a little prosecutorial hocus-pocus provided by SBI agent Duane Deaver. Mr. Deaver has since been admonished for misleading the jury that convicted Mr. Goode, but as has been recently divulged, he was only following the standard protocol of the slanted playing field used by the prosecution. In allowing the jurors to believe that Goode was linked to the crime by blood, Mr. Deaver used the same tactic (expressing the presumptive test for blood and withholding the negative confirmatory test) that he employed in helping to falsely convict Gregory Taylor for the 1991 murder of Jacquetta Thomas.
Ms. Blythe would have readers believe that SBI agent Deaver acted alone in this obvious conspiracy with prosecution… she expects us to believe that Goode’s prosecutor was oblivious to the misleading statements of its star witness, Deaver. In order to win the conviction against Goode, Goode’s prosecutor needed every trick in his bag of magic, including the misleading hocus-pocus lab analysis in which the jurors had reason to believe Deaver’s testimony to be truthful, objective, and unbiased.
The fact that the case against George Goode was also tainted by “ineffective counsel” is not surprising, and was probably an essential building block in reaching the capital conviction. Was the defense counsel for Mr. Goode back in the day merely inept, or was it purposely hanging its client out to dry for the prosecution’s benefit? I have not followed that case enough to know for sure, but I would not be surprised if the defense was in cahoots with the prosecution.
Speaking from personal experience with both civil and criminal trials, attorneys were not at all shy about taking large sums of money to represent me and then selling me down the drain. More often than not, that would be the case. There are many cases in the North Carolina criminal arena in which I believe that defense attorneys, especially from the Public Defenders office which represent the poorest of the poor and those most greatly disenfranchised, throttle back in the defense of their clients in order to enable the prosecution to come away with a win.
When it comes to public defenders, they really have a conflict of interest, especially when it comes to misconduct on the prosecutor’s side of the table. By definition, public defenders are agents of the state who are tasked to represent the indigent or those without legal representation who are faced with criminal charges. The prosecutors, who are also agents of the state, are pressing for convictions of the defendants represented by the state’s public defenders. In highly publicize cases, it is definitely not to the public defender’s best interests to win an acquittal for a defendant who is unpopular with the press and the people.
The cases against some defendants are so weak that prosecutors are unable to prevail without the ineffective contributions by the defendants’ counsel. In one particular incident, a defendant who was charged with “assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflicting serious injury” for stabbing a woman, waived his right to assigned legal counsel. Subsequently, with the defendant left to represent himself, the prosecution filed to dismiss the case. Reasons for the dismissal were that the victim refused to cooperate with prosecution, and that there was lack of evidence to corroborate the victim’s story that she was stabbed. Had this man been represented by assigned counsel, it is possible that the prosecution would have moved forward. This, however, is merely speculation.
Ineffective counsel can on occasion be due to the ineptitude of the defense attorney, such as in the case in which Erick Daniels, a 15 year-old, who was convicted of an armed robbery conviction based largely on the shape of his eyebrows in a middle school year book. With no credible case against him, Erick’s lawyer nevertheless put him on the stand to testify. He was pummeled by Prosecutor Freda Black cross-exam which contained highly prejudicial and inflammatory questions. Daniels served seven years unjustly behind bars. And despite being dragged out of a middle school classroom by police without the existence of a shred of credible evidence to implicate him, the media did not raise a ruckus because the teenage defendant was poor, disenfranchised, and an African American.
In a legal environment in which most prosecutors seek unfair advantage on a skewed playing field, former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong long ago sought to level the field and give defendants fair advantage and justice. More than two decades before it became mandated by law, Mike Nifong was sharing his evidentiary files with defense attorneys. He has maintained an open file policy throughout his 27 year career as a prosecutor. (This is something that the media and the State Bar's F. Lane Williamson never mention and don't want the public to know.) When defense in the Duke Lacrosse case filed a motion seeking discovery, three sets (one for each defendant) of thousands of pages of documents, and copies of CDs and DVDs were provided within 24 hours. When Mr. Nifong sought copies of evidence held by defense attorneys, they gave him nothing (even though some so-called defense evidence was shared with the extremely friendly media). To accuse Mr. Nifong of withholding evidence is ludicrous, especially in light of past history. Such accusations should be reserved for prosecutors such as David Hoke (Alan Gell case), Bill Wolfe (James Arthur Johnson case), Michael Parker (Floyd Brown case), and Tom Ford (Gregory Taylor case).
Prosecutorial hocus-pocus and ineffective defense counsel may have put George Goode on death row, but hopefully now that the unfair practice of the SBI lab have been exposed, he will at least get another trial… and this time on a more level playing field.