Its been a bad week for Lady Justice and the public's perception of justice in our area. First there was the report that a Charles County Circuit Court judge took justice in his own hands when he deflated the tire of a car that was parked in a restricted zone of the courthouse. The car belonged to a member of the courthouse cleaning crew who worked nights and wanted to be close to her car when she left work late at night and in the dark. The judge was cited this week, and was suspended by the chief administrative judge from presiding over criminal trials until the citation is resolved.
Another story affecting all of us who depend on truthfullness of all for the fair administration of justice, is the story coming out of Montgomery County, MD concerning a police officer's indictment for perjury charges arising from a DWI arrest. Video footage from a security camera apparently contradicted the officer's sworn testimony concerning the facts leading to the arrest and subsequent charges of a driver for driving while intoxicated. The video footage showed that when the officer arrived at the scene, the defendant was in the back seat with his feet out the window. The officer testified at trial that the defendant was found behind the wheel of the car, in the driver's seat. Without placing the defendant behind the wheel of the car, the State could not prove that the driver was in fact guilty of driving a vehicle while intoxicated. After the defense lawyer showed the security camera video at the trial, showing that the driver was not operating the vehicle when the officer arrived, the defendant was acquitted. The police officer has been indicted for testifying falsely in court to in order to convict the driver.
Finally, the Chief Public Defender for the State of Maryland, Nancy S. Forrester, was fired by the Board of Trustees this week. What makes the story noteworthy is that after she was fired, Forrester stated that the Board ousted her for philisophical reasons, and in part, for failing to fire a well respected African American District Public Defender for no reason. She also wrote, in a one page statement, that she had been asked to do other unlawful and wrongful acts.
The public's faith in our judicial system, and our ability to make it work fairly, is seriously harmed by wrongdoing by those involved in the administration of justice. Let's hope these cases are just isolated and rare incidents, and not signs of more serious problems in our judicial system. Without the highest integrity of those who help administer justice, how can we expect the public to have faith that they can obtain justice in our courts?