D.C. defense lawyer convicted of fabricating evidence

D.C. criminal defense lawyer Charles Daum was convicted at a bench trial on Friday of charges related to manufacturing evidence and suborning perjury.  Two investigators who worked with him were convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The Blog of Legal Times and the DOJ website have slightly more detailed descriptions – it looks like the evidence against Daum primarily consisted of recorded phone calls between his client and others, and the testimony of his former client and other cooperators who received substantial sentence reductions for helping to convict Daum.  It says the trial took a month, and from the linked articles I don’t know what the testimony was or if there was any direct evidence of Daum’s involvement.

Why Daum’s attorneys elected for a bench trial is beyond me – I cannot imagine a judge finding an attorney not guilty if there is any evidence of guilt, circumstantial or not.  I trust in juries, not judges who have become jaded over the years, and who often are former prosecutors themselves.  Jurors can be taught the concept of reasonable doubt, and jurors often already have a concept of what our justice system is supposed to mean, a concept untainted by years of guilty pleas, sentencing hearings, and thousands of citizens, one after another, waiving their constitutional rights.

If the only evidence was testimony from the former client or other cooperators, I am skeptical.  Law enforcement and/or a prosecutor can make a case against any one of us with the testimony of cooperating witnesses.  How could that be?  They have a theory, what they think happened.  Then the agent, prosecutor, or both interview their potential witness – tell the witness they know what happened, tell the witness in detail what they think they know happened, tell the witness that the witness is facing x number of years in jail, and that their only hope of going home to their family is if the witness truthfully testifies to the facts that the agent/prosecutor has just spoon-fed to them.

If anyone other than a law enforcement agent or prosecutor were to engage in this type of witness interview, it would be called suborning perjury, witness tampering, or obstruction of justice.

Once the witness agrees, the recording equipment is turned on and the witness gives their statement.  Sometimes, the recording equipment is turned on for the first part of the interview – it’s a legitimate interrogation technique, right?  Once they have one statement, the process continues with the next witness, and the next, and the next, except now they have the additional tool of telling each witness that they have another witness who has implicated the current witness as well as the target.

When word gets around at the local jail that the police or prosecutor are looking for a certain type of information, other inmates start sending letters to the prosecutor or the investigator; they send letters to their attorneys telling them that they have information, and more witnesses begin to appear.

I don’t know if Daum is guilty or not.  I don’t know if there was any direct evidence of his involvement.  All I’m saying is that, when I hear only that the evidence consisted of cooperating witnesses, unless there is more, I am skeptical – I have seen how cases are built with jailhouse snitches and how convictions can be obtained without a shred of true evidence.  If there was direct evidence of Daum’s involvement, it would benefit the DOJ’s credibility to include that information in their press-release.

One Response to “D.C. defense lawyer convicted of fabricating evidence

  • James Janice
    6 years ago

    One trial tactic is to wait until the waning minutes preceding a criminal trial to exploit the subjective nature of materiality to enable a material witness to be excused from testifying.

    Such scheming is not generally found in the trial transcript, but is almost always present in the audio files of trials, where the microphone remains live when there is activity in the courtroom.

    Lawyers often forget this and that ignorance potentially puts them at risk of getting caught with their pants (or skirts) down.

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