Our favorite Republican Prosecutor is back in the news.
Remember David Fornshell? The ambitious prosecutor in Warren County Ohio with eyes on statewide office?
In February 2013, we highlighted Fornshell’s effort to intimidate a Schools Superintendent who sent a letter home urging parents to join him “in an active campaign to ensure Gov. (John) Kasich and any legislator who supports him are not re-elected.”
A month later, we reported that Fornshell permitted a man to be indicted and remain in jail even though the grand jury has voted not to approve charges.
Now, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Fornshell has a live feed of everything that goes on in Warren County courtrooms… going directly into his office!
Defense attorneys are, rightly concerned that Fornshell and the prosecutors in his office would be able to use the audio equipment to overhear confidential conversations between attorneys and clients.
Our favorite quote from the coverage comes from defense attorney John Kaspar:
“My exact term was, ‘This is bullshit,’ ” defense attorney John Kaspar recalled of his reaction to Judge Robert Peeler telling him about the feed to the prosecutor’s office during the trial in late July.
Kaspar was defending Michael Watson in the drug-related beating death of Dione Payne of Dayton, who was dropped off at a local hospital.
“In any case that I have, it could compromise the effectiveness of my defense because I don’t know what (Fornshell) has heard or not heard,” Kaspar said.
While Fornshell denies any wrong doing, there is nothing stopping him from using the equipment to allow witnesses who are not permitted in the courtrooms to listen to testimony.
Plunderbund has obtained an email exchange between Fornshell and one of the Warren County judges.
On August 7, Fornshell wrote to the judges:
I am writing to you today because, quite frankly, I am growing tired of the accusations/innuendos/suggestions by certain individuals that I, and/or my office, have engaged in improprieties relating to the cameras, specifically that we have essentially eavesdropped on defense counsel’s conversations with their clients, violated separation of witness orders and allowed witnesses to watch trial proceedings when they were not permitted to be in the courtroom, etc. Each of those allegations is false, and I find it offensive that individuals out there are even suggesting that I, or members of my staff, would engage in such conduct.
First, we would really like to know more about the “accusations/innuendos/suggestions.” Wouldn’t you? Second, the lady doth protest too much. Fornshell then proceeds to engage in a lengthy and rather disjointed defense of his access to the audio system.
Judge Peeler responded that he had assumed that the system had been turned off. He essentially calls Fornshell a liar for claiming that he could not overhear conversations between defense counsel and clients.
I was told that conversations from defense table between the defendant and his counsel were being overheard. The first response by my staff was to inform defense counsel to mute the microphone. I was then told that there was still a problem. At one point, my bailiff came into my office and said that you were able to hear the conversations even with the microphone muted.
More recently, the Republican judges in Warren County seem to be circling the wagons around their fellow Republican. One judge said, “There’s nothing wrong with the system. There’s just the perception that the prosecutor is getting special privileges. He is not getting special privileges.”
The judge is wrong.
Fornshell is getting special privileges. No other attorney has to this information. Certainly, a lot of defense attorneys would find this useful.
Second, perception is important. The fact that Fornshell could listen to confidential conversations between an attorney and his client is enough to cause a problem. The fact of whether he actually has or has not done so is irrelevant.
The job of prosecutor requires a sense of fairness. Clearly, this is something Fornshell lacks. Keep that in mind when he runs for statewide office in a few years.