Read here the story of Gyronne Buckley, who originally got a life sentence in Clark County for supposedly selling $40 in crack to an informant in 1999. He had no prior criminal record. The informant was testifying to get out of a charge of his own. The state fought for years to keep from revealing evidence, a videotape, useful to Buckley’s defense. It showed the informant’s poor recollection of events. A federal judge found 38 places that the informant’s testimony could be impeached.
The legal case was long and winding. At last, Buckley got an order for a new trial and a special prosecutor to consider whether the case should be prosecuted again.
The special prosecutor conceded Buckley’s factual claim was accurate that the prosecution had violated his right to due process by failing to disclose the exculpatory videotape to his trial lawyer. On November 1, 2010 the charges were dismissed and Buckley was released after 11-1/2 years of wrongful imprisonment.
Buckley went to the state Claims Commission for compensation. Late last year, it voted 5-0, over Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s objection, to give him $460,000.
Such claims must be approved by the legislature. McDaniel went before legislators to argue that Buckley had not been harmed or fouled by violation of his constitutional rights or by spending 11.5 years in jail. Paying him would set a bad precedent, he argued.
End of the story: The legislative panel today reversed and dismissed the claim.
Want to see a bad precedent? Here’s one: No consequences when the state puts a first offender in jail for 11 years for a drug deal based on a dubious witness protected from exposure by prosecutors.
PS — A prosecutor notes that the state claims that prosecutors were not provided with the videotape by investigators in the first trial and thus could have been unaware of it. But prosecutors continued to fight Buckley’s use of that evidence after its existence became known in the appeals process.