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Function of Juries | 01 Oct 2014

-Prosecutor Drops Case without Explanation After Opening Statements

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After hounding a defendant for more than two years, federal prosecutors abandoned their case against a Georgia man just after the trial began.

Feds Drop Case After Opening Statements

For two years, criminal defense lawyer Jay Strongwater could not persuade federal prosecutors to drop felony drug and gun charges against his client.

But after Strongwater delivered his opening statement at the trial of client Carlos Alfredo Arevelo last week, prosecutors pulled him and his cocounsel aside to deliver a stunning message: they were dismissing the case.

The prosecutors offered no reason for their change of heart, and a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Sally Yates would not comment.

The 22-year-old defendant, Carlos Alfredo Arvelo, had been at his sister’s boyfriend’s apartment for less than a day after being kicked out of his mother’s house after a fight with her over skipping school exams when federal agents showed up at the apartment requesting entry. When Arvelo did allow them access, their search reportedly turned up guns and illegal drugs.

Although the defendant had been there for less than a day and had his own belongings still in his car, and although the apartment resident absolved Arvelo of connection to the seized items, prosecutors initially were holding a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence over the defendant. Arvelo’s attorney says that although they backed away from this before trial, they were still insisting that the defendant must spend at least two years in jail. Then, after putting the defendant through two years of state-sponsored terror and imposing the massive expense of mounting a defense for a jury trial, they bailed out after opening statements without explanation.

Veteran defense attorney Don Samuel of Atlanta’s Garland, Samuel & Loeb said that in 32 years of practicing law, “I’ve never seen a prosecutor drop a case after opening statements.”

“It’s conceivable they will drop a case if a witness starts falling apart or admits to something,” he said. “It’s not unusual for a prosecutor to dismiss a defendant halfway through its case when a witness didn’t come through, or a witness is missing. … But the opening statement had to be pretty damn powerful for the prosecution to have a lightbulb go off and say, ‘Wow. We really don’t have a case.'”

“The prosecutor either was not adequately prepared and didn’t understand the facts, or it was articulated in such a way that the prosecutors realized the holes in their case. … Maybe Jay did such a powerful opening, he opened their eyes to something they previously had not quite understood.”

However, if there were no new facts that surfaced during Strongwater’s opening statement, prosecutors “should have dismissed the case long ago,” Samuel said. “They should not have made the kid go through the agony of this and try to force a plea out of him.”

This case reflects the lengths to which power tripping government agents are free to go in tormenting peaceful people with malicious prosecutions and wasting massive amounts of taxpayers’ and defendants’ own personal funds pursuing meritless cases against peaceful people. There will be no consequences for government lawyers in this case. They are free to pull this kind of life-destroying stunt again and again on other victims, who themselves have no recourse against such abuse.

Jurors should understand that when a defendant appears before them in a criminal case, they have often gone to great expense and great personal risk to do so, while prosecutors themselves are funding the case out of other people’s pocketbooks and are themselves at no personal risk. They personally have little to lose by vindictively bullying defendants, even when their case is entirely without merit. That is one reason why well over 90% of criminal cases never even make an appearance before a jury. Prosecutors strong-arm defendants—even innocent people—into pleading guilty by offering them known sentences FAR less severe than what they risk in a jury trial in which prosecutors have piled on more and more charges contrived only for the purpose of making trial by jury much more hazardous for the defendant than a plea deal. You, as a juror, must match defendants’ courage in exercising their right to trial by jury with your own courage and persistence in protecting peaceful people with your Not Guilty vote when a just verdict requires it.

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