You already know that 19 year-old Dierres Lee is accused of fatally shooting La Salle High School student Justin Brown. The Cincinnati Black Blog and the Citizens Against Joe Deters blog have published the names of the three adult white males who went with Justin on the night he was shot and killed (link). Their names are: David Corso, Derek McKinley, and Anthony Wuestefeld. According to this press release from Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph T. Deters, Justin, Corso, McKinley, and Wuestefeld all went to buy illegal drugs from Lee using illegal counterfeit U.S. currency/money.
What you probably don't know. This link is to something called a "Certification of Prosecuting Attorney In Support of Motion for Non-Disclosure Pursuant to Crim.R. 16(D)". One of Joe Deters' assistants filed the certification to keep from disclosing the names and addresses of all the civilian/private witnesses in Mr. Lee's case to his appointed defense attorney, William Richard Gallagher, or to the press and the public.
Without a shred of proof, Deters argues in the certificate of nondisclosure that releasing the names and addresses of witnesses to Mr. Lee and his attorney, including the witnesses named by the Cincinnati Black Blog above, "...will compromise the safety of these witnesses and subject them to intimidation or coercion."
If you read the document closely, what Deters is saying is he doesn't have to turn over witness information (discovery) to any defendant during any murder trial because his experience shows "...that in virtually every homicide case coercion and threats to the witnesses now plays a critical role. With today's broad expansion of information via the Internet and cell phones, witnesses' names quickly spread through the communities involved." That's a bunch of bullshit! And that's why The Cincinnati Black Blog is considering intervening in the case.
This isn't the first time Deters has pulled this stunt. Less than three months ago, on February 6, 2013, the First District Court of Appeals in Hamilton County in State v. Harris (Appeal No. C-110472) was forced to review a case in which Deters filed a certification during discovery. Don't take our word for what happened next, here's how the judges on the Court of Appeals described the facts [Note: Deters' mother-in-law, Sylvia Sieve Hendon, was on the panel]:
During discovery, the state filed a certification in support of its motion for nondisclosure of the state's private witnesses. Pursuant to Rule 7(K) of the Hamilton County Rules of Practice of the Court of Common Pleas, a hearing was held before the presiding criminal judge of the court of common pleas on May 4, 2011. [Footnote: Rule 7(K) requires that the presiding criminal judge hold the nondisclosure hearing.] Upon the motion of the assistant prosecutor and over the objections of the codefendants' attorneys, the presiding judge excluded the defense attorneys from his chambers while the assistant prosecutor presented his evidence in support of nondisclosure. At the conclusion of the hearing, the presiding judge found that the assistant prosecutor had not abused his discretion when he did not disclose the witnesses to the defendants.
We have to stop right here to let you, our faithful readers, digest what you've just read. The prosecutor had a top-secret, closed-door hearing with the presiding judge. At the end of the secret hearing, the judge decided Deters could keep the names and addresses of witnesses hid from the defendants.
What kind of mess is that!? Why are you just learning about this from The Cincinnati Black Blog? The Enquirer is desperately trying to convince you that they're a watchdog. They've sued Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter and they've got their attack dog, Kimball Sean Perry, disrupting Judge Tracie's courtroom. The Enquirer is suing Judge Tracie because they're hellbent on printing the names of six Black kids who got into a little fist fight with a white guy in North College Hill, but they have no interest in printing the names of the guys involved in a counterfeiting ring who participated in a criminal attempted robbery and got Justin Brown killed.
Just today, The Enquirer published an editorial accusing Judge Hunter of breaking the law and calling for the Ohio Supreme Court to open a disciplinary investigation. We've shared the information provided in this entry with The Enquirer and asked them several times to explain why they aren't printing the names of Justin Brown's criminal co-conspirators, and why they haven't called for disciplinary action to be taken against Deters. Our requests for an interview have not been answered?
Back to the Harris decision:
In his second assignment of error, Harris asserts that the trial court erred when it failed to grant his motion to compel discovery. During discovery, the assistant prosecutor filed a certificate of nondisclosure of witnesses pursuant to Crim.R. 16(D). In accordance with Rule 7(K) of the Hamilton County Rules of Practice of the Court of Common Pleas, the matter was referred to the presiding judge for a review of the prosecuting attorney's certification. See Crim.R. 16(F).During the hearing before the presiding judge, the assistant prosecutor requested that he be permitted to present information in support of his certification of nondisclosure outside the presence of the defense attorneys. The defense attorneys objected, arguing that an ex parte hearing would impinge upon the effectiveness of their assistance to their clients. Over defense objections, the presiding judge conducted the hearing outside the presence of defense counsel. Before the defense attorneys left the presiding judge's chambers, Harris's attorney asked the assistant prosecutor if ther had been direct threats to the witnesses whose names were not being disclosed. The prosecutor replied, "[I]n general, the witnesses who the state anticipating [sic] calling in this case have all expressed--made a request on their own to law enforcement, either to me or to the police, that their names and identities not be disclosed prior to trial because of a concern for their safety. With respect to any direct threats, that is information that I want to give the court outside the presence of counsel."After defense counsel left the chambers, the assistant prosecutor presented information about threats to and concerns for the safety of four state witnesses. Four police officers, who also attended the hearing, attested to the information relayed by the assistant prosecutor. Part of the information relayed to the court included an allegation that after the assistant prosecutor had disclosed to Harris's prior counsel that one of the witnesses, Sherron People, was a confidential informant, the witness had been approached on the street and threatened. According to the assistant prosecutor, that incident was the instigation for requesting an ex parte hearing with the presiding judge. The presiding judge concluded that the assistant prosecutor had not abused his discretion in refusing to disclose the name of the four witnesses.Harris now contends that the assistant prosecutor's certificate of nondisclosure failed to provide any reasonable, articulable facts in support of nondisclosure as required by Crim.R. 16(D). But we conclude that the certification satisfied the rule's requirements.More troubling is the hearing that took place before the presiding judge. Crim.R. 16(F) provides that "[u]pon motion of the defendant, the trial court shall review the prosecuting attorney's decision of nondisclosure***for abuse of discretion during an in camera hearing conducted seven days prior to trial, with counsel participating." Clearly, the presiding judge's decision to allow the prosecutor to present information during an ex parte hearing violated the rule's requirement that a hearing be conducted with counsel participating.
We know that's a lot of information. But it all boils down to three things. 1) The presiding criminal judge in Harris's case was wrong to kick the defendant's attorneys out of the hearing. 2) A defendant can challenge a certificiate of nondisclosure and they must be given a hearing. 3) In the Harris case there were actual threats to witnesses. Read the certificate of nondisclosure filed in Mr. Lee's case. There isn't even the allegation that there've been threats made to anyone. If Deters and his staff now decide to lie and say there have been threats made, they must be compelled to articulate the facts.
We like Mr. Lee's attorney, Bill Gallagher. Really we do. So it pains us to have to ask these question, but we must. Why hasn't Gallagher requested a hearing before the presiding criminal judge? Why hasn't he complained about the certificate of nondisclosure in court, and on the record, where it counts? Has Gallagher sold Mr. Lee out? If so, why? Because of pressure coming from Justin Brown's uncle in the Cincinnati Police Department, District 3 Commander Capt. Russell Neville? Or has Justin's coach, CPD Assistant Chief Paul Humphries, pressured Gallagher?
We hate to beat a dead horse, but Deters and his staff are breaking all sorts of rules and laws. Why doesn't The Enquirer have anything to say about this stuff? Why hasn't The Enquirer sued Deters for disclosure of the names and addresses and evidence in the Justin Brown/Dierres Lee case? Where are the self-described watchdogs at The Enquirer to challenge Deters's refusal to follow the law? The appeals court just went over the rules and law surrounding certificates of disclosure. Why aren't they forcing Deters to comply with the law? Beyond Gallagher, where are the rest of the criminal defense attorneys? They've got to see that allowing Deters to prevail on this expansion of the law will harm them and their clients. Without the names and addresses of witnesses, how can Mr. Gallagher prepare a proper defense of Mr. Lee? How can any criminal defense attorney do their job without crucial discovery?
The certificate of disclosure was filed in Mr. Lee's case on April 15. Judge Melba Marsh, the judge assigned the case, hasn't ruled on the motion or scheduled a hearing on it. Our records don't show a filing by Mr. Gallagher on behalf of Mr. Lee. The Cincinnati Black Blog has an interest in this case. We believe the people and the press have a right to know all parties involved in the Justin Brown shooting/counterfeiting/drug case. We've consulted an attorney and we are considering intervening in the case to protect the right of the press and the public to access public information.
Here's another link to the certificate of disclosure filed in Mr. Lee's case.