These words should never be written by a judge about a federal prosecutor:
“Substantially interfered with a defense witness’s decision to testify.”
“Violated Defendant’s rights.”
And the conclusion that this misconduct “cannot be adequately remedied by a new trial.”
Yet U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson wrote those damning words this week about Assistant U.S. Attorney Terra Morehead. Robinson threw out the indictment in a drug case as a result of Morehead’s questionable actions.
Morehead does not belong in the courtrooms of Kansas.
Not now, not while allegations of prosecutorial misconduct are swirling around her work as a federal prosecutor and her past work in the district attorney’s office of Wyandotte County.
Tom Beall, the acting U.S. Attorney for Kansas, must sideline Morehead while he conducts a thorough investigation.
The question of whether Morehead should be charged with obstruction of justice must be answered. Beall must call for an internal investigation, and the results should be made public.
This is not just a personnel matter. Not when the actions of a federal prosecutor are affecting the outcome of cases. Public safety is involved.
Robinson’s action followed Morehead’s highly questionable role in a case where an innocent man served 23 years for a double murder he did not commit, before being exonerated recently. Lamonte McIntyre was freed in October.
Morehead has been accused of ignoring two eyewitnesses who told her McIntyre was not the shooter and of forcing one of those witnesses to falsely testify at the threat of having her children taken away.
In the drug case of Gregory Orozco, the judge charged that Morehead waited until the trial was set to begin before disclosing “potentially exculpatory” evidence that could have bolstered the defendant’s case.
Prosecutors are granted a wide range of immunity to do their jobs. It is highly unusual for one to be called into question in this manner.
The allegations against Morehead are deeply troubling, but she deserves to have her name cleared if an investigation finds no wrong-doing.
Channels exist within the Department of Justice for such checks. The Office of Professional Responsibility or the Inspector General could be appropriate resources to inspect Morehead’s cases.
Attitudes of “by any means necessary” have no role in the criminal justice system. The people of Kansas expect and deserve better. Their faith must be restored by swift action on the part of Beall. And the meantime, Morehead should be sidelined from the courtroom.