Judge's ruling to dismiss assault case was 'extreme and unwarranted,' prosecution argues

LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- A judge's dismissal of a felony assault case last week because of prosecutorial misconduct was an “extreme and unwarranted sanction” and should be reversed, the Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney's office wrote in a motion filed Thursday.

Judge Audra Eckerle dismissed the case

after finding that Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jamhal Woolridge “deliberately” and “improperly” withheld key evidence that could have helped prove the innocence of a defendant.

But Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine and his office argues there was no misconduct and Eckerle made “factual mistakes” in her ruling. The office will ask Eckerle on Monday to vacate her decision and reinstate the indictment.

Defense attorney Rob Eggert had asked Eckerle last week to rule that Woolridge had committed misconduct and dismiss the case against Enrique Sandoval, who was accused of assaulting another man in a 2013 bar fight.

Eggert claimed Woolridge removed medical records that showed the alleged victim had a drinking problem, which would have been a key part of Sandoval's self-defense argument.

The records were only turned over last week, when the trial was set to begin, after Eggert said he told the prosecutor he believed some medical documents were missing.

But prosecutors argue that Eggert never indicated his client would be claiming self-defense and the medical records in question were from an unrelated 2011 incident, more than two years before the current case.

The prosecution, according to the motion, “could not be expected to produce records that were exculpatory only when viewed through the lens of the secret defense.”

In addition, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Dorislee Gilbert wrote in the motion that the alleged victim's actions two years before he was assaulted “shed no light” on his mental state in 2013. And Woolridge didn't withhold records, Gilbert wrote, noting that they were turned over at Eggert's request.

Eggert could not immediately be reached for comment.

Eckerle ruled last week that it was clear the information should have been turned over and that she had ordered all medical records to be given to the defense.

Gilbert wrote, however, that the order was specific to medical records for the 2013 assault case. Regardless, the prosecution argues, the penalty of dismissing the case was too extreme a sanction.

While the dismissal of a case for failing to turn over evidence is rare,

defense attorneys have repeatedly made allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in recent years.

Most notably, the high-profile trial of accused murderer Dejuan Hammond fell apart in April 2014 after prosecutors failed to turn over key evidence -- a mistake Wine later admitted had been deliberate. A judge did not dismiss the case against Hammond and he was later convicted of murder.

In 2013, Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Barry Willett dismissed a receiving stolen property case, citing the prosecution's "outrageous conduct” in not turning over evidence.

Under state law, prosecutors are required to turn over any evidence that may be favorable to the defense. And the United States Supreme Court has ruled that hiding evidence favorable to the defense violates a defendant's constitutional right to due process.

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