Attorney general orders refresher courses for federal prosecutors

In the wake of the botched prosecution of former Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, Attorney General Eric Holder is ordering all federal prosecutors to take a refresher course in their requirements to turn over all evidence to the defense in criminal cases. Failure of prosecutors to give the Stevens defense team key documents led Holder to drop the case April 1.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the Oct. 27 conviction of Stevens and appointed an independent prosecutor to start a criminal contempt investigation of the six Justice Department prosecutors who conducted the trial. Stevens had been convicted on seven counts of failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts and favors on Senate disclosure forms.

The Justice Department announced late Tuesday that Holder is taking "comprehensive steps to enhance [its] compliance with rules that require the government to turn over certain types of evidence to the defense in criminal cases."

In the coming week, Holder said "federal prosecutors throughout the department" will get supplemental training in their obligations to give the defense all evidence in criminal cases. Holder set up a working group of senior prosecutors and department officials to review practices in criminal cases. The group will be headed by the assistant attorney general of the criminal division and the chairman of the attorney general's advisory committee.

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