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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Thursday, April 26

Seeber appeal

The legal decision for Katherine Seeber's appeal is an interesting read (for those who like that sort of thing like myself).

Now, let me preface this by stating that I am not a lawyer (not that you would confuse me for one), but this decision strikes me as something that may set precedent.

Ok, first the legal overview.

Saratoga County Judge Jerry Scarano vacated Seeber's plea last year based on the State Forensic Lab's fiber analyst, Garry Veeder (yes, two R's in Garry).

In their oral arguments before the appeals court, Broderick said Veeder was acting on behalf of the prosecution when he faked the results of his tests and argued it amounted to a “Brady violation.”

A Brady violation is basically a legal term for when prosecutors suppress evidence from the defense in a case.

In their decision, the appeals court emphasized that “there is absolutely nothing in the record to suggest that either the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office or the State Police were aware—prior to the time that the defendant entered her guilty plea – that Veeder cut certain procedural corners … nor are we suggesting that either the prosecutor or the State Police – save Veeder—did anything improper hear.”

However, they point out that Veeder had “effectively overstated the results” in Seeber’s case and the court agreed that he was “acting on behalf of the prosecution” in doing so.

While proving the prosecution’s collusion in misleading evidence is required for the Brady violation, the court pointed out that it “potentially sets the stage for a situation where a truly innocent person, whose conviction was obtained solely upon the basis of admittedly falsified, manufactured or otherwise unreliable evidence, might remain in prison simply because the people were unaware…of malfeasance on the part of a law enforcement representative.”

This, to me, smacks of precedent-setting.

First, the judge approves the Brady violation despite the fact that the prosecution was not aware of the suppressed or misrepresented evidence — generally a requirement of a Brady violation.

Furthermore, it lumps Veeder in with the prosecution, something it did not seem like the five judges in the appeals court were going to go for during oral arguments, but there you have it.

As for the prosecution, Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III said he could not comment on the case, specifically, other than to say “we are prepared to proceed with a trial and will be ready when the court sets a trial date. Despite the fact that she opted not to have a trial initially does not mean she should not be entitled to one now.” (of course, that was before she pleaded guilty to manslaughter)

At the same time, he said that his office is “satisfied with the Appellate Division’s decision and are quite pleased.” He said his office only appealed the case the former Assistant District Attorney Richard Wendling’s “conduct and integrity (was) in issue,” and he maintained Wendling, who no longer works in the District Attorney’s Office is “an outstanding professional."

And sorry for how the decision is displayed below. I can't figure out how to make Blogger and Scribd get along. If you click "Full screen" though, you'll be able to read it.

Seeber Appeal

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