In December, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction of Death Row inmate Michael Toney after the Tarrant County district attorney’s office agreed that [prosecutor Mike] Parrish failed to turn over to the defense at least 14 documents containing exculpatory or impeaching evidence.
Toney was sentenced to death in 1999 for the 1985 bombing of a Lake Worth trailer that killed three people. The withheld evidence cast doubt on the testimony of Toney’s ex-wife and former best friend, who were key witnesses against him. No physical evidence connected Toney to the bombing.
The district attorney’s office voluntarily recused itself from the Toney case, which is now being handled by the Texas attorney general’s office.
Mr. Toney was just released last week after sitting on death row since his trial in 1999. The Attorney General dismissed charges, though the Tarrant DA says he may still be retried. But the Startlegram reports about another capital case in which the same prosecutor allegedly withheld Brady material and knowingly violated the defendant's attorney-client privilege. Defense attorney Robert Ford said that:
Parrish committed a Brady violation when he failed to turn over Toledano’s psychological report to Richardson’s defense team. A Brady violation occurs when a prosecutor violates a defendant’s constitutional rights by withholding evidence favorable to the defense.
Ford also says Parrish failed to reveal to a judge or a grand jury foreman that he had been indirectly receiving information from Richardson’s legal assistant about the case, interfering with her attorney-client privilege.
The judge in the case denied a request by the defense in the latter case for the Tarrant County DA's office to recuse itself, but it sure appears Mr. Parrish employed some shady tactics over the last decade in these high-profile, high-stakes cases on behalf of the Tarrant DA.
These revelations raise a question I asked soon after Michael Toney's verdict was overturned: "Since the state bar won't discipline them, there's no criminal sanction for withholding evidence, and the US Supreme Court has ruled that they carry no civil liability, what should happen to prosecutors who cheat to get a conviction? What other options are there for reining in such behavior?" What do you think should happen to Mr. Parrish?