Prosecutor Sleeps With Victim

This comes from an episode of the TV Lawyer show “The Good Wife.”

The feds arrest a drug dealer’s lawyer and charge him with murder, because they claim he leaked the name of a potential witness against him to the dealer, who had her killed.

During the preliminary hearing, it’s revealed that the dead witness was the girlfriend of the federal prosecutor, something he hadn’t bothered to mention to the judge. The judge - who is wildly biased in favor of the prosecution - makes a sad face but doesn’t do anything more.

What would happen in real life? Could a prosecutor really be allowed to go after somebody for the murder of someone he was sleeping with? What are the conflict of interest rules in such a case? Beyond the case, would this have potential for disbarment?

It would definitely be a huge problem. In fact, it’s so absurd to think this might actually hapen that I can’t recall anything like it ever occuring.

I would suggest the prosecutor would have to withdraw immediately. The problem will be that every decision will be second-guessed - did you ignore other evidence to railroad this guy? What did the gf tell you? COuld you be called as a witness? If you are in any way connected you could be a witness. Did you pass up the opportunity to plea bargain because of emotional issues?

I imagine it falls in the same category as doctors not operating on their close relatives. Can you be objective?

He’d be off the case so quickly he’d turn blue from the Doppler effect.

I’m not an expert in legal ethics, but I believe this is, in the common parlance, a “no-no.”

Minor hijack: What about the defense attorney sleeping with his/her own client? I’m thinking Jagged Edge here.

Assuming the observers were associated with the case he’d turn red as he departed. :mad: :wink:

Never say never, but the prospects of this ever happening are so vanishingly small that it is not worth considering.

Think of the problems - if the relationship is disclosed, the defence would have a field day to end all field days. Engineering a situation so that the prosecutor has to become a witness. Just having fun at his expense distracting everyone from whatever strengths the case might have had. The opportunities don’t bear thinking about. And if the relationship was not disclosed but came out later, the prisoner would have a very good shot at appeal.

This is so obviously Not On that only a complete moron would even think about it. Put it down to the great American capacity for law shows to generate ludicrous scenarios in order to crank up the emotionality of events and create pointless ethical “dilemmas”. It’s fascinating that the All Love is Legitimate and Justifies Any Behaviour trope is thought so powerful that this doesn’t instantly smash the suspension of disbelief boundary.

The closest case I know of where something like this happened was where the prosecutor (female) and defence counsel (male) had formerly had a relationship that was over at the time of the trial (although there were some eyebrow raising events such as sharing a room on circuit post the break-up). Defence counsel didn’t mention this to his client. Client got a retrial (and was duly convicted again, as I recall).
And bonking your own client? Ewwww. Clients have no compunction about blaming their counsel for any loss. If you want the whole relationship to be Ground 1 on the notice of appeal, go right ahead. Any indiscretion with a client (slagging off the judge, etc) finds its way into the appeal papers when a disappointed client drafts their own initial paperwork, as they not uncommonly do.

Very occasionally there are lawyers (who are usually notoriously barking nuts anyway) where this sort of thing has happened, but it ends in tears very rapidly, and is professional death.

How about a prosecutor and a judge? It’s not quite what the OP is proposing, but it’s pretty close.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/17/us/17texas.html?_r=1

But that’s not all.

Admittedly, over before the case began, but the judge and prosecutor hid it, then when the defense found out, the state argued the defendant waited too long to assert the defense that the judge might have been biased.

Also, remarkably, the judge now seems bothered that the defendant has forced her to admit her affair, and the decision rejecting the defendant’s appeal was made by an appellate court on which the judge in question had previously sat (and 8/9 current members had been judges when the judge in question was on the court).

Most, if not all, state bar ethical rules prohibit a sexual relationship between attorney and client. They do make an exception for pre-existing relationships, however.

I couldn’t believe it when I saw it, but they were making a point about character and what lawyers should or shouldn’t do for money and justice, and so on, very heavy handedly. And they did it knowing that it wouldn’t affect the case, which got derailed for other reasons, so they were safe against appeals.

Still, The Good Wife is normally a show that is less extreme than most lawyer shows and this lapse surprised me. It was the weakest episode of the show.

I am not a lawyer but why would a defense lawyer be prohibited from giving information relevent to the case to the defendent?

Planning a hit against opposing witnesses, while always tempting, generally violates the canon of ethics.

Well from the OP’s example clearly appealable and probabaly the lawyer will be hauled in front of the ethics committee in his local juridiction for non disclosure.

The only case I can recall where I saw a relationship between counsel’s/ trier and counsel be condoned was where during the Court Holidays a High Court Judge who was on duty and was the wife of one of the Counsel’s in an urgent matter and this fact was disclosed to all including opposing counsel (me!) and the decision made was against her husbands clients.

I wouldn’t be too sure TV lawyers were that careful. It’s pretty much impossible for a lawyer to never mention any witnesses to his client, so it mostly comes down to “unless the witness is specifically protected by judicial seal or or the laywer actually helps plan for the crime”.