ARBITRARINESS: A Death Penalty Prosecution Instead Settles with a Short Sentence After Misconduct is Revealed

A prosecutor’s misconduct related to a Kentucky capital murder case led the state to accept a plea bargain with the defendant in which he now faces a sentence of 10 years with the possibility of immediate parole.  Officials say Assistant Commonweath Attorney Ruth Lerner compromised the death penalty prosecution against Cory Gibson by cutting a deal with a witness against Gibson.  Lerner had not disclosed a deal made with the witness in a separate robbery case in exchange for his testimony against Gibson.  Lerner’s boss, David Stengel, announced Lerner’s resignation, adding she would have been fired if she had not resigned. "This was a capital murder case," Stengel said at a press conference. "We just can't do this kind of work in a capital murder case."  Before the capital trial, prosecutors were instructed not to make any deals with the witnesses in Gibson's case.  Lerner had insisted no deal was made until a video surfaced showing her informing a judge of the deal reached in the witness’ case.  Stengel apologized to the family of the victim for the resulting 10-year sentence, saying “I’m sorry.”

(B. Barrouquere, “Prosecutor resigns after controversial plea deal,” Lexington Herald-Leader, June 11, 2009).  See Arbitrariness and Sentencing.