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Prosecutor Caught Withholding Evidence from Defense – AGAIN

Last week, Assistant District Attorney Stephanie McFarland stood before a Texas district court judge for the second time in 15 months to hear the court’s findings that she had illegally and improperly withheld evidence from the defense. 

That’s right.  A prosecutor in front of the bench being told she’s done something wrong.  The same thing, for a second time.

In 2007 DA McFarland Withheld Info of Two Witnesses in the Laura Ashley Hall  Trial

Stephanie McFarland did not prosecute the trial of Laura Ashley Hall all by herself, but  the 3d Circuit Court of Appeals did rule she “acted willfully” when the prosecution did not disclose statements made by a witness that implicated the defendant — and in doing so, violated the trial judge’s orders.   She was also found to have held back evidence regarding a witness named Doug Conley during the sentencing part of the case (after the defendant had already been found guilty of the crime). 

Interesting that Stephanie McFarland was the attorney who interviewed the witness who gave the witness statement.  Still, way back then, records show that McFarland said it was just a mistake: nothing intentional.  Oops!

In 2006, McFarland Failed to Provide Resume of State’s Witness – Which Would Reveal Expert Lied

Austin district attorney McFarland has also been found to have hidden the CV (curriculum vitae) of a physician that was a witness in a felony case — doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you learn that the resume showed that the doctor had fudged on his credentials.  And by fudged, of course we mean LIED.

Texas Judge Charlie Baird ruled last week that because DA McFarland kept back the doctor’s resume, the defense did not have the opportunity to cross-examine this sneaky expert on his inflated resume and impeach his credibility.  And by cross-examine, of course we mean put the doctor who had the arrogance to lie about his background and experience in a criminal trial on the stand and “rip him a new one.”

In this case, a UT student name Danish Sheikh was charged and brought to trial by McFarland for choking his ex-girlfriend.  It was a very serious charge for a young man just starting out in life — and no matter what level of charge that is made by the state, citizens are supposed to get due process and a fair trial. 

Oh – and what did McFarland give as the reason that the defense team didn’t get the resume?  Well, she thought she did.  Oops!!  Right.  The Judge didn’t believe her. 

What Happened to the Defendants?

For Defendant Hall, the appellate court decided that hiding the witness statement (which dealt with the issue of who had dismembered the victim’s body) did not change the outcome of the trial.  So, no new trial on guilt versus innocence.  However, 3rd Court of Appeals did order a new sentencing hearing in the case on a finding that Stephanie McFarland and the other prosecutor in the case unfairly kept information about another witness in the punishment phase.

For Defendant Sheikh, the Judge has vacated Sheikh’s aggravated assault conviction and his five-year probation sentence.

What Happens to Stephanie McFarland?

So far, not much.  Apparently, she’s still working for the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and she’s still trying cases.  Of course, things may change soon.  For one thing, the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers Association may be getting involved.  And defense attorneys will be asking that McFarland be recused from Hall’s new sentencing trial (duh). 

Fair Trial.  Due Process.  How can prosecutors disregard them?

Seems that someone might be wanting to look through other cases that this prosecutor has tried.  You gotta wonder what other evidence might be stuffed in boxes that defense teams and juries never saw.

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