The prosecutor’s duty in a criminal prosecution is to seek justice. Therefore, the prosecutor should “prosecute with earnestness and vigor,” but may not use “improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction.” This was decided by The United States Supreme Court.
However, empirical data demonstrate otherwise. Prosecutors often violate the law and engage in prosecutorial misconduct to produce convictions that would embellish their résumé, especially when the case is high profile.
On August 4, 2013, a panel of experts met in Chicago and discussed how much prosecutorial misconduct really exists.
One of the panelists, Professor Ellen Yavoshefsky of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, New York, observed: “It seems that virtually every week there’s another case” of prosecutorial misconduct that gains national attention in the media.
Professor Yavoshefsky later added that prosecutors are seldom prosecuted for their misconduct. “Why aren’t some of these cases criminal?” she wondered. “People who steal money are dealt with,” she said. “What about people who steal lives? When you’re hiding evidence, you’re stealing someone’s life.”
Indeed, prosecutors who engage in prosecutorial misconduct not only steal the defendant’s life with years of unjust incarceration, but they also steal families’ lives: They steal a son from son from his mother, a brother from his sisters and brothers, and a husband from his wife.
In Mohamad’s case, the lead prosecutor, Mr. Bell, did not hide his motive; he proudly declared it to the author of Lightning Out of Lebanon page (183)“I knew this was the case of a lifetime…It was a career maker.”
In fact, immediately after the case was over, Mr. Bell quit his government job to work as a defense attorney for one of the biggest firms in Charlotte, North Carolina! Additionally, he went from country to country and state to state to “teach how to prosecute terrorists.” (Reported by Charlotte.com, May 03/2003)
Had Mr. Bell intended to seek justice instead of personal fame, he would have solved the case in one meeting and saved American taxpayers millions of dollars. He could have interviewed Mohamad and given him a polygraph exam to authenticate his truthfulness.
Mohamad repeatedly requested that the government interview him, but Mr. Bell rejected the requests because he was not seeking justice, he was looking for “a career maker.”
To achieve his goal and secure a conviction, Mr. Bell engineered the trial strategy on post-9/11’s feelings of fear, anger, and patriotism. In addition, Mr. Bell allowed witnesses to testify falsely, hid evidence, argued impermissible evidence to the jury, appealed repeatedly to the passions and patriotism of the jury, and made frequent statements to the press before and during the trial to inflame the public. (See Trial and Conviction)
Closing argument is the time when prosecutors and defense attorneys summarize their cases and persuade the jury of their arguments. However, their arguments must be limited to the evidence in the case. They are not allowed to They are not allowed to invent new evidence or elicit the jury’s passion to obscure its objectivity.
Mohamad’s case was completely different. In his closing argument, Mr. Bell misquoted witnesses, fabricated evidence and invoked the jury’s patriotic passion without any respect to the law. Mr. Bell asked the jury to convict Mohamad on material support to a terrorist organization because he had received a letter from his friend, who was a Hezbollah member, and because Mohamad had sent $1,300 to Sayyed Fadlallah’s office in 1995 before it was illegal to do so. (It became illegal to send support to Hezbollah in October, 1997).
Mr. Bell endlessly reminded the jury of the events that occurred in Lebanon in the ‘80s when Mohamad was a child. Moreover, Mr. Bell vouched for the government’s witnesses even though he knew they had lied on the stand.
Mr. Bell started his argument to the jury by dramatically chanting “Hezbollah. Hezbollah.” Then, he suggested to the jury without any evidence or testimony that Mohamad was anti─American and was pleased by the events that occurred in Lebanon in the ‘80s when Mohamad was in grammar school.
Sadly, the district Judge did not ask Mr. Bell to follow the law and limit his argument to the evidence in the record, nor did Mohamad’s inexperienced attorney object. Consequently, the jury trusted Mr. Bell’s argument and convicted Mohamad on all counts.