An opinion of 5 federal appellate court judges has been released this week that includes a shocking accusation of misconduct on the part of two King County prosecutors. These accusations go back to the conviction of Joshua Frost, sentenced to 55 years for a number of robberies that occurred back in 2003. The appeal itself did not grant any relief to Frost, however, the appellate judges had much to say about how the prosecutors handled the case.
The Alleged Misconduct
5 judges from the appellate court found the actions of the prosecutors in question to be particularly "troubling." Judge Alex Kozinski has made the claim that the prosecutors that handled Frost's case were in violation of a rule requiring the disclosure of evidence that is relevant to the case. The evidence? A plea deal negotiated with another defendant, whose testimony may not have necessarily been true.
We all see plea deals on TV dramas and Hollywood films: a criminal is offered some sort of immunity in return for cooperation with the prosecutor or law enforcement to help secure a conviction on another defendant that the cops are really after. Even without linked defendants, plea bargaining is common in courtrooms across the country, but what was not common about this plea deal was that an unsigned plea deal was brought into the court record, yet when the plea agreement was signed after prosecutors got their conviction on Frost, the signed plea deal was very different than the one introduced into the court record.
A plea deal was given to a certain Edward Shaw, a defendant and witness in the Frost case. Judge Kozinski alleges that the prosecutors worked to ensure that word of this deal never got out until after the conviction was secured. When Shaw went on the stand, the prosecutors acknowledged that he had been offered a plea deal, citing an unsigned plea agreement. What wasn't on record was that Shaw had already signed a plea deal to testify against Frost that gave him a great deal on some domestic violence charges unrelated to the events with Frost. These dealings also prevented Frost's attorney from being able to pin Shaw down as an accomplice, and to attempt to use the defense of duress to protect Frost. To put things in a more simple perspective, Shaw got a bargain through some under-the-table dealing, while Frost felt the full force of the legal system.
Frost's defense attorney had made several attempts to get Shaw's true deal recognized and taken into account at the trial, but was met with a stonewall tactic from the prosecution. Shaw was able to present damaging testimony, and Frost, backed into a corner ended up submitting confessions, securing his conviction. Worse still, the appellate court (though several of the judges acknowledged the questionable dealings of the prosecutors) decided not to grant any relief to Frost. The case is being submitted for appeal once more with the focus on the actions of the prosecutors in mind, and will hopefully result in some form of relief for Frost.