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May 30, 2006

Retirement of a federal prosecutor's nightmare

The Charlotte Observer has this interesting article discussing District Judge Graham Mullen of the Western District of North Carolina, who is taking senior status after 16 years on the bench.  Appointed by the first President Bush, Judge Mullen sounds like a federal prosecutor's worst nightmare.  Consider these snippets from the article:

Mullen has contempt for the federal sentencing guidelines, which he believes have given prosecutors more power than judges in deciding punishments.  He once said the guidelines, designed by Congress in the 1980s to make prison terms tougher and more uniform, would "gag a maggot."...

Mullen doesn't shy from speaking out about what he perceives as injustices. He's told federal prosecutors they have a reputation of being arrogant bullies.  And he's refused to accept plea bargains that force criminal suspects to give up their rights to appeal....  The judge's critics say he can sometimes seem hostile toward prosecutors. Mullen said his differences with prosecutors stem from his desire to even the playing field between them and criminal suspects....

In 2003, Mullen surprised many in the legal community by announcing he would no longer accept most plea agreements.  He said the agreements, which forced criminal suspects to give up their rights to appeal, were unconscionable.  A few months later, prosecutors and defense lawyers reached a compromise that gave defendants more rights to appeal.

As the keynote speaker at a 2002 U.S. Attorney's Office retreat in Boone, Mullen's bluntness shocked and angered prosecutors. He told prosecutors never to lie or shade the truth.  "A lying law enforcement officer," he warned, "is as much a slime dweller as any criminal defendant."  The judge said prosecutors have so much unchecked power that there's a temptation to use it to bulldoze.  "Don't run over people just because you can," he said.

May 30, 2006 at 07:29 AM | Permalink

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