New Legal Developments

Prosecutorial Misconduct — Harmless Error

Frost v. Gilbert (9th Cir. 2016) 818 F.3d 469.
The Ninth Circuit reviewed burglary convictions for habeas relief under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.
The Ninth Circuit held that it was harmless error to prohibit defense counsel in a Washington State proceeding from arguing alternate theories to the jury.
The second holding is more interesting. The Ninth Circuit found “one coincidence too many” in the prosecution’s withholding of the plea agreements signed by their star witness. Despite finding no prejudice to the defendant because of the overwhelming evidence of guilt, the Ninth Circuit nonetheless singled out three Washington State attorneys by name, listed their ethical defalcations, then invited them to clear their names with the State Bar.