Virginia State Bar Grills Crockett’s Prosecutors; Openly Points to a ‘Conspiracy’ and ‘Appearance of a Cover-Up’
Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 @ 8:52PM
Back in early 2014, Cameron Crockett filed a Virginia State Bar complaint against the prosecutors in his case, Kari Ann Kopnicky-Kolar and Tabitha Berea Anderson. The complaint alleged that they: (1) deliberately suppressed a variety of exculpatory evidence; (2) knowingly presented false testimony; (3) lied in closing arguments to the jury; (4) had a conflict of interest due to ties to Jacob Palmer’s family; and (5) committed several other ethics violations of various nature.
Since 2014, the State Bar has “deactivated” and then “reactivated” the complaint several times. According to the Bar, they did this because they did not want to make any decisions while Crockett’s appeals were ongoing in the courts.
On February 28, 2018, an investigative subcommittee of the Bar, made up of two lawyers and one layperson member, finally made a decision in the matter. In the course of closing the complaint, the subcommittee had some stern words for the prosecutors and the way they handled the case. Most importantly, the subcommittee said that the suppressed exculpatory evidence should have been turned over, that the prosecutors were derelict in their duties for failing to investigate Jacob Palmer as the real driver, that prosecutor Kari Kopnicky-Kolar should have been disqualified from the case, and that with Jacob’s father and uncle being Virginia Beach Police Officers (as well as Kopnicky-Kolar’s husband), it appeared there might have been a cover up in this case. The following is the relevant excerpt from the letter the subcommittee sent to Cameron:
“[T]he Subcommittee expresses its concern . . . over the manner in which this case was prosecuted. . . . [T]here are several aspects of the case which the Subcommittee found troubling. . . . [T]he Subcommittee feels that the witness statements at the crux of this complaint should have been turned over under the standards imposed by Rule 3.8(d) of the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court. . . . The witness statements did tend to contradict statements by the police officers and could potentially be viewed as exculpatory.
The Subcommittee is also troubled by the apparent lack of interest [on the part of the prosecution] in ascertaining whether Jacob Palmer was in fact the driver of the car on the fatal night of the accident. There are many factors which implicated him, yet the prosecution did not seem interested in pursuing him. The integrity of the prosecutions is of paramount importance. In this particular case, the fact that Mr. Palmer’s father and uncle were members of the Virginia Beach Police force, as was Ms. Kopnicky Kolar’s husband, compounds that problem further. . . . [T]he failure to pursue the possibility of another driver along with the relationships between the police and the alleged driver of the car is fuel for conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories undoubtedly impact the public’s confidence in convictions. The Subcommittee feels that disclosure that erred on the side of caution and assigning another prosecutor [i.e., removing Konicky Kolar] would have gone a long way toward eliminating the appearance, right or wrong, of some kind of cover up in this case.”
Yes, you read correctly.
This coming from an entity such as the State Bar is very striking. Not only has it been a long time coming to get some acknowledgment of this sort; this may also have a substantial impact on how Cameron’s federal habeas corpus petition unfolds. We can’t go into too much detail about that, but rest assured, Cameron will be finding unorthodox ways to incorporate this latest development into his habeas action as he continues to seek relief from the courts. What we can say is that he has developed a creative strategy to use this as leverage to increase the chances of success on his petition.
Cameron sent us a letter about this break, and the following is an excerpt from that letter:
“Back in November, the Virginia Supreme Court acknowledged that my trial lawyer, Andrew Sacks, was ineffective in his representation. Now, the Bar has acknowledged that there “were many factors which implicated” Jacob Palmer, but the prosecution, which had a serious conflict of interest, never investigated him and suppressed evidence that could have aided my defense. Thus, in the course of the past five months, the Commonwealth of Virginia has recognized that my trial was fundamentally unfair on all fronts and that there are some serious questions about who is responsible for Jack’s death. I had a lawyer who failed me miserably and prosecutors who abused their position of power to protect one of their own. And finally, a governmental body has admitted that the evidence showing Palmer was the driver was significant and troubling. What more does anyone need to see to agree that a new, fair trial based on all the evidence in the case is in order? Doesn’t the Commonwealth want to be sure it got the right guy? Cus right now, that is a point mired in doubt by any objective measurement. No reasonable person can look at this case as it sits now and say that the result is surely just.”
Changing gears, he continued, “I applaud the subcommittee for its bravery, the likes of which we haven’t seen much of in this case from state officials. I think the federal court is definitely going to detect the injustice in this case and make moves to correct it. As I have always believed, it is simply a matter of time.”
And there you have it. Cameron has served 6 years for Jacob Palmer’s crime. Now he has thirteen months left. Will the federal courts act before it is too late? That remains to be seen. But we think late is a helluva lot better than never.
We’ll keep you posted as more news comes in! This is a big time momentum swing. Keep riding the wave with us!