District Court has Authority to Grant Immunity to a Defense Witness Without a Finding of Prosecutorial Misconduct
Brent Wilkes, head of a company called ADSC, lobbied California congressman Randall Cunningham to secure funding and support for ADSC. Mr. Wilkes provided Congressman Cunningham with expensive meals, a houseboat, lavish trips and mortgage payments. As a result, Mr. Wilkes received many government contracts that were worth millions of dollars through Congressman Cunningham’s earmarks. Mr. Wilkes was subsequently charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering. At trial, Mr. Wilkes asked the court to grant immunity to one of his key witnesses, explaining that the witness would provide significant rebuttal testimony that would contradict the immunized prosecution witnesses. The District Court denied Mr. Wilkes request to grant immunity to his witness absent a showing of prosecutorial misconduct. At trial, Mr. Wilkes was convicted.
The Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit reversed and held that a District Court can grant immunity to a defense witness absent any prosecutorial misconduct if the Defendant’s due process rights and right to a fair trial will be violated. The Court of Appeal explained that immunity shall be granted to a witness in exceptional cases where the fact finding process was so distorted through the prosecution’s decisions to grant immunity to its own witnesses and a denial of immunity to a defense witness with contradictory testimony violates a defendant’s due process. Here, Mr. Wilkes’ witness would have been material and relevant evidence to rebut any testimony presented by the immunized prosecution witnesses. The Court of Appeal stated that an evidentiary hearing should have been conducted to gather additional evidence regarding the proposed testimony of Mr. Wilkes’ witness.
If you or a loved one is charged with crime, it is important that you speak to the experienced federal crimes attorneys at Wallin and Klarich. Our Southern California attorneys will do a thorough investigation of all the facts and raise all possible defenses. Wallin and Klarich has over 30 years of experience in dealing with evading cases and has successfully defended similar individuals. Please call (888) 280-6839 anytime to speak with one our attorneys regarding your matter.