Lawrence Callanan was convicted in 1996 of murder in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Callanan was prosecuted by then St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, who proclaimed that the conviction was a victory and that Callanan's guilt was convincingly demonstrated. However, Prosecutor McCulloch was defeated by Wesley Bell following the 2018 election, and Prosecutor Bell wrote a letter to the court on behalf of Callanan, supporting his motion for freedom.
In his letter, he stated that his office was “deeply concerned by the prosecutorial misconduct that occurred during Mr. Callanan's 1996 trial. Mr. Callanan's conviction rested entirely on circumstantial evidence. … The prosecution was based upon a theory of ‘exclusive opportunity' that hinged on the testimony of a lone and uncorroborated witness …”
According to Prosecutor Bell, that lone witness actually informed Prosecutor McCulloch's office that she saw two cars leaving the scene of the crime. She was instructed not to tell anybody about the second car, and no one in McCulloch's office ever disclosed the exculpatory evidence to the defense.
A special master was appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court was to hear the matter. He ruled that Callanan's conviction should be vacated “due to the egregious Brady violation by the prosecutor.” His report now goes to the Missouri Supreme Court for a final ruling.
What is a "Brady Violation"?
A "Brady Violation" refers to an instance in which a prosecuting attorney fails to turn exculpatory evidence that she has uncovered during the course of a criminal investigation to the defense. "Brady" refers to the 1963 US Supreme Court Case Brady v Maryland. The Brady case also involved the prosecution of a murder. In that case, the prosecution came into possession of a written statement from another man involved in the crime, in which he claimed that he had performed the murder. The prosecution failed to share this statement with the defense attorney.
The Court held that withholding exculpatory evidence violates an individual's right to due process "where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment." Despite the fact that the ruling on this type of evidence must be turned over is quite clear, prosecutors can, and do, withhold exculpatory evidence, as seen in the Callanan case. When these types of violations are discovered, it may rise to the level of prosecutorial misconduct that warrants corrective action, such as the vacation of a conviction and/or a new trial.
Defense Attorney Steve Karimi
Prosecutorial misconduct is only one type of violation of individual constitutional rights that can occur in the criminal justice system. A violation of your rights does not vacate an arrest or conviction; the violation must be identified and acted upon. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows how to examine the behavior of prosecutors and the police to ensure that these types of violations are properly identified. Steve Karimi is a former King County prosecutor who knows how to fight within the criminal justice system. Call 206-621-8777 or fill out an online contact form today to get started.