ACLU, Defense Attorneys File Brief Challenging Immunity Protections for Investigative Misconduct by Former Prosecutor
WASHINGTON / November 4, 2016 – Three criminal justice organizations have filed an Amicus Curiae Brief with the First Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the claim of a former prosecutor that he should enjoy absolute immunity for his misconduct that included tampering with exculpatory evidence in a sexual assault case. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Maine Foundation, and the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed the Brief on October 5, 2016.
The case revolves around the actions of former prosecutor Mary Kellett during a 2007 trial of Vladek Filler, wrongfully accused of sexually assaulting her husband in the midst of a child custody dispute. Filler was eventually cleared or exonerated on all charges (1). She later sued Kellett alleging defamation and malicious prosecution.
Kellett advised three law enforcement officers to disregard subpoenas to disclose evidence to the defense attorney. More troubling, complainant Ligia Filler had admitted on tape that his rape allegations were his way of “fighting for the children.” This portion of the tape was edited out before it was handed over to the defense. Kellett “engaged in or supported and approved of, the tampering of evidence by selectively editing a videotaped interview and redacting the exculpatory portions of the recording that were given to the defense,” according to the Brief.
Ex-prosecutor Kellett previously admitted to these actions and was professionally sanctioned (2). The question now before the court is whether these unethical actions should be protected by the doctrine of absolute immunity.
Kellett’s actions are consistent with an investigative approach often referred to as “victim-centered.” This method instructs investigators to “start by believing” the accuser’s statements (3); to hand “control of the process back to the victim” and allow the complainant “to request certain investigative steps not be conducted”(4); and to assume that “all sexual assault cases are valid unless established otherwise by investigative findings.” (5)
A hearing on the case will be held this coming Monday, November 7, 2016 in Boston. The Brief is available online (6). The case has attracted national media attention (7).