Legal reforms needed

Before the 2008 campaign passes too far into memory, there’s a little piece of unfinished business that needs to be tended.

During his campaign against Nevada District Judge Robert Perry, Washoe County District Attorney Richard Gammick sent a letter to Perry which read, in part, as follows:

“I have in my possession reports from two separate laboratories stating you had cocaine metabolites in your system, which establishes the fact that you had ingested cocaine.”

As we reported at the time ("D.A. Gammick intervenes in judgeship race,” Oct. 2), Gammick was reviving a quarter-century old accusation against Perry in which the future judge was present in a room where a white powder was spotted through a window by a passer-by, resulting in a police report and Perry being tested for drugs. He was tested at a time when he had just undegone spinal surgery and the possibility of a false positive caused by his narcotic post-surgery medication was very real. Moreover, there was other exculpatory evidence in Perry’s favor.

More to the point, Gammick (then a deputy prosecutor) did not prosecute at the time. He claims now that it was because he lacked jurisdiction, which is not true. He was fully empowered to prosecute. Judge Perry claimed, and we agree, that Gammick failed to prosecute because he couldn’t prove his case. He was unwilling to take his case to trial where it could be tested in court and instead used it for political purposes after the witnesses and evidence were scattered to the four winds.

Instead, he kept the drug tests in his drawer for a couple of decades and waited for a chance to use them. This is the part that troubles us. Why is Gammick keeping files on citizens? Who else is he keeping files on?

We have spoken with other prosecutors, and they say the law does not specifically address disposal of evidence when a case falls apart or a prosecutor fails to prosecute.

Well, it should. Citizens of Nevada should not have to live in fear of a junior J. Edgar Hoover trafficking in old official evidence. The Nevada Legislature needs to address this matter, and the State Bar should open an investigation of Gammick’s behavior in using stale evidence from his private stash to threaten a public official.

On another legal matter not related to this year’s election, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto obtained an indictment against Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, and the way it was announced also needs to be addressed by lawmakers.

At the time the indictment was made public, only Cortez Masto and her staff knew what happened in the grand jury. Krolicki’s lawyers did not. They were not given access to the grand jury proceedings until two weeks later.

This means that at the time the indictment was made public, the public relations approaches of Krolicki and his attorneys was hampered while the PR approach of Cortez Masto was fully informed. The legislature should require that a grand jury indictment can’t be announced until after the grand jury proceedings have been provided to a defendant. The two sides should be on a level playing field because a criminal prosecution is no game.