In a rare legal request, prosecutors in the Paul Bergin trial asked the Third Circuit Court of Appeals for “the extraordinary remedy” of having the case reassigned to another judge because of his alleged judicial bias, according to The Record.
“Regrettably, the District Court’s ability to remain impartial can reasonably be questioned due to a number of statements and actions before, during, and after trial,” prosecutors wrote in a brief to the Third Circuit.
Prosecutors contend that U.S. District Judge William J. Martini abused his discretion by severing the indictments against Bergin into multiple trials and preventing prosecutors from presenting relevant evidence. Judge Martini also made comments that he would have acquitted Bergrin, and was severely critical of the government’s case.
Bergrin is the disgraced prosecutor-turned-defense attorney to the stars charged with a laundry list of crimes, including participating in a criminal organization the government dubbed “The Bergrin Law Enterprise.” Bergrin was charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and racketeering - among other crimes - in connection with the killing and attempted killings of witnesses against drug clients. One of the alleged victims was FBI informant Kemo Deshawn McCray.
Prosecutors reportedly began battling with the judge in 2010, when Martini dismissed earlier versions of the racketeering counts against Bergrin, according to The Record. Martini’s decision was reversed on appeal a year later.
The government is currently pursuing another appeal of Martini’s rulings excluding evidence from a retrial of the McCray murder charges, denying prosecution on the racketeering counts, and limiting the scope of a second trial to cocaine-trafficking and witness-tampering allegations.
As legal practitioners know, alleging judicial bias is a serious accusation, but there’s obviously no love lost between Martini and government prosecutors.
At the time of the announcement of Bergrin’s 33-count indictment, acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra Jr. vowed: “Bergrin can now expect to feel the full weight of the very legal system he turned on its head with his conduct.”
It looks like the government is determined to live up to its vow. We’ll see what happens when the Third Circuit hears arguments on the motion in March.
- United States v. Bergrin (FindLaw’s CaseLaw)
- Alleging Bias, Federal Prosecutors Want Judge Removed in Bergrin Murder Trial (The Star-Ledger)
- ProtectMarriage Alleges Judicial Misconduct in Prop 8 Trial (FindLaw’s Ninth Circuit blog)