Thursday, July 20, 2006

Coup against chief state's attorney





Connecticut may like to think that its
criminal-justice system is mostly outside politics,
but that system has just seen a stunning political
coup -- the ouster of Chief State's Attorney
Christopher L. Morano by a cabal of his supposed

The coup was accomplished with a letter sent to the
Criminal Justice Commission by 11 of the state's 13
regional prosecutors on the eve of the expiration of
Morano's term as he stood for reappointment. The
letter accused Morano of disrespecting the regional
prosecutors and building up his office at the expense
of theirs.

But the letter provided no specifics and, most
tellingly, the grievances were a surprise to Morano.
He said none of the prosecutors had ever raised such
profound concerns with him despite their regular
meetings. Certainly none of the prosecutors had made
such complaints public before, and so their letter
must be seen as an opportunistic contrivance about
which a public inquiry by the commission would be

Unfortunately there isn't likely to be such an
inquiry, for Morano added that he did not want to
distract his department with a lot of
self-justification, and so he withdrew his candidacy
for reappointment. He promised to assist the
transition to his successor. Thus he repaid abuse with

Morano's ouster is is the triumph of a tradition of
largely unaccountable fiefdoms in criminal justice,
wherein the regional prosecutors in effect answer to
no one. As a matter of law, the chief state's attorney
has little authority over them even though he is the
Criminal Justice Commission's delegate, and the
commission itself fails to accomplish much supervision
because it meets too infrequently and is composed of
dignitaries whose main jobs and interests are

Of course that is exactly how the regional prosecutors
want it -- left to be the law unto themselves, the
most arrogant officials in state government after
judges, who also answer to no one most of the time,
thanks to the cliqueishness of the General Assembly's
lawyer-dominated Judiciary Committee.

While he is a career prosecutor, Morano wasn't much of
a climber. He inherited the chief state's attorney’s
job because he was deputy to John M. Bailey, who was
forced to retire by illness. Neither was Morano the
publicity hound depicted in the letter that
assassinated him. The U.S. Justice Department
pre-empted most of the investigation of corruption in
state government before Morano became chief state's
attorney, so most of the publicity Morano got was for
not doing what any prosecutor
might most like to do. As a result not one person in a
hundred in the state can identify Morano even as half
the population identifies Attorney General Richard
Blumenthal as the official of the justice system who
has brought heaven to earth in Connecticut -- a
misimpression, for the attorney general has no
criminal authority, only civil. By the Blumenthal
standard of publicity seeking, Morano has been a

Neither was Morano a revolutionary. But he
was unusual in the criminal-justice
system for having an open mind and distinguishing the
public interest from the merely institutional
interest. These qualities may have been demonstrated
best by his advocacy of requiring police and
prosecutors to make video recordings of confessions in
serious criminal cases. Morano acknowledged that many
criminal confessions are false and that they are
obtained not just through threats, coercion, and
intimidation by police and prosecutors but also
through the ordinary fear and exhaustion of criminal
suspects under interrogation. Indeed, what may be the
country's most famous false confession case is a
Connecticut case, the prosecution of Peter Reilly in
the murder of his mother in Canaan almost 30 years

Reformers have pressed the false confession issue in
Connecticut since then but nothing happened here until
recently, when Morano prodded his department into an
experiment of recording confessions in a few
jurisdictions. This was much resented by the regional
prosecutors, some of whom even acknowledged that the
public would be offended if it ever saw what police
and prosecutors do to induce confessions. With Morano
on his way out, this vital reform to get and preserve
the truth may be dead in Connecticut unless the
legislature pursues it. No doubt the regional
prosecutors are counting on the legislature to
continue to leave them alone.

But the coup against Morano presents the legislature
with an even bigger and older issue -- the issue of
accountability in government, the issue raised by the
recent scandal in the Judicial Department, which also
thinks it doesn't have to answer to anyone. If, as the
coup that felled Morano suggests, the chief state's
attorney is to answer to the regional prosecutors
rather than the other way around, Connecticut can do
without the pretense that someone is really in charge.


Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal
Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.



Anonymous said...

Powell don't know what the hell he is talking about. There ain't no coop! Kevin "Candy" Kane is gona be a great Chief State's Attorney! Everytime he stops at our bar he always buys a round. Sure he hangs for a while to get a few more rounds back, but what the hell, being a prosecutor is a stressfull job.
I think "Candy" Kane will whip that office into shape. He and his ole buddies from the other State's Attorney's offices can set up a weekly golf outing. Maybe invite some alumni, maybe Dick Palmer and "Taco" Sullivan can get in on this too! I don't golf of course, I DRINK! But I sure as all hell will be glad to see these "honorables" at the 19th hole! These guys was always good for a drink at the Hour Glass Cafe and that joint was "protected" if ya know what I mean! Any who, we would all be concerned if the Chief State's Attorney in Connecticut actually had any authority, but he don't. So y'all just relax, have a cold one and say a toast to the next "honorable" CSA "Candy" Kane. And if you are still upset, we can always put Dick P. back in as CSA, Funny ain't it, he had the job before, now he appoints it.

Anonymous said...

Cliffie Boy! At it again. (He was drunk when he wrote that last post).

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