"Over-ambitious prosecutors" cited in select federal acquittals

Arrests, indictments and … acquittals.

A growing number of media legal commentators, law school professors, defense attorneys and, importantly, judges and juries, are conclusively weighing in on what they see as prosecutorial overreach and flat out bad judgment in many federal cases.

High-profile acquittals in many instances are the result, with a number of such cases receiving massive media play and casting federal prosecutors in a less than laudatory light.

The Roger Clemens case is the most recent example of that. Clemens, the likely future Hall of Fame baseball pitcher, was acquitted earlier this week, avoiding conviction and federal sentencing in perjury charges. His outcome follows in the wake of John Edward’s acquittal on charges of improperly using campaign funds.

As noted by one media reporter, many federal prosecutions ending in acquittals or pronounced sentencing mitigation seem to have one thing in common, namely, “a tenuous case and a refusal by prosecutors to walk away from it.”

There are literally scores of recent examples to illustrate that, including a case of alleged conspiracy against the Hutaree militia in Michigan to violently overthrow the government being tossed out by a judge in March and an acquittal in Atlanta earlier this year of defendants accused of bribery in connection with legalized gambling.

In noting the upsurge in botched prosecutions, one law school professor cites to “over-ambitious prosecutors who are morally offended by the defendant’s actions, and statutes that … are rather broad and vague.”

That combination can lead to a process that seemingly can’t be stopped in some instances, regardless of a lack of merit underlying a prosecution.

“It’s about power; it’s not about justice,” says a person close to the Michigan militia case.

Source: Houston Chronicle, “Clemens’ acquittal just latest in string of federal court flops,” Mike Tolson, June 19, 2012