Local News

Committees Find No Misconduct In Reprimand Of Prosecutors Who Sent Man To Death Row

Posted June 15, 2005

— Two subcommittees of the North Carolina State Bar's Disciplinary Review Committee offered final reports into an investigation of whether the discipline two prosecutors received was enough after they allegedly withheld evidence in a trial that sent a man to death row.

Prosecutors Debra Graves and David Hoke were reprimanded by the State Bar in September for withholding evidence in the 1998 murder trial of Alan Gell, but some questioned whether the bar went far enough with its punishment.

The subcommittees found no misconduct, but have some suggestions on changes that need to be made.

For example, they say the bar should use out-of-state lawyers to avoid conflicts of interest.

"The State Bar should consider adopting a policy and putting it in place for the provision of other counsel where experienced State Bar counsel are not able to prosecute a matter," said the subcommittee chairman Fred Moody.

Something else they said needs to change is that prosecutors need to do a better job of making sure the public understands the case.

"While it may not be their job to engage in public relations work, it certainly is necessary to the State Bar's future that the public perception be considered in these kinds of prosecutions," Moody said.

The Disciplinary Review Committee will now compile a final report and present it to the full State Bar next month.

At Gell's 1998 trial, Hoke and Graves withheld a tape recording of the state's star witness saying she had to "make up a story" about the killing for police. The lawyers also failed to turn over eight witness statements indicating the slaying occurred while Gell was in jail.

After the initial trial, Gell ended up on death row, but in 2002, he was granted a new trial where he was eventually acquitted and released from prison.

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