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Reserving judgment in domestic abuse cases until they’re proven

| Apr 21, 2017 | Domestic Violence

Here’s a clear reality underscoring prosecutorial misconduct in a criminal case in Tennessee or elsewhere: there is no upside for an innocently accused party.

And that obviously applies across the entire spectrum of alleged criminal conduct, although it can easily be argued that a victim of official misconduct can easily be harmed in an especially outsized way when he — and sometimes she — is wrongfully stated to have committed one or more acts of domestic violence. Personal linkage with such a crime can bring grievous ruin to a career, to friendships and to a hard-earned reputation in one’s local community.

A businessman from another state knows all those downsides well after an accusation of domestic violence levied by his wife and following subsequent legal action taken by a city prosecutor that resulted in his criminal conviction.

And he has a further singular take on domestic abuse claims, trials and adverse outcomes, for this reason: he was totally innocent of wrongdoing, with his wife’s claim being flatly untrue.

Criminal defense attorneys are not surprised by such a story, knowing that the sadness closely linked with domestic violence is sometimes exacerbated by false claims that put innocent people behind bars.

What makes the above story particularly galling, though, is this: the prosecutor knew the claim was false when she opted to go ahead with the man’s trial, materially damaging his reputation in the process. She withheld that evidence from his attorneys, even as she separately charged the wife with filing a false report.

The husband’s verdict was ultimately set aside, and he is now a free –though understandably irate — man.

A notice of claim he recently filed against the city and prosecutor well reflects that. The state bar says it will investigate the prosecutor for misconduct. As for the city, it will likely soon be facing a damage claim in the amount of $5 million.