Appeals court: Judge went too far in dropping KCK man’s drug case
Kansas City, Kan. — A federal appeals court ruled that a judge went too far by dismissing a Kansas drug indictment after finding that a prosecutor violated the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson should retry Gregory Orozco, the Kansas City Star reported. Robinson dismissed Orozco’s two drug charges in December 2017 after finding that federal prosecutor Terra Morehead intimidated a witness and belatedly disclosed evidence that could have helped the defendant’s case.
Morehead told a witness that she would create complications for him in a drug case in Missouri if he “got in her way” by testifying at Orozco’s trial, according to Robinson. The witness declined to testify, and Orozco was convicted.
Robinson noted taking what she called the “rarely-invoked remedy” of dismissing Orozco’s charges with prejudice so that prosecutors couldn’t refile the case. Robinson said a new trial wouldn’t repair the damage to Orozco’s defense.
An appellate judge agreed with Robinson that Morehead violated Orozco’s rights. But the appeals court argued that Robinson never addressed why dismissing Orozco’s case was the necessary route to deter misconduct, instead of “more narrowly tailored sanctions.”
Morehead had also faced allegations of misconduct in the 1990s for her handling of a case that led to a man being imprisoned for nearly 23 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Morehead was accused of witness intimidation when she prosecuted Lamonte McIntyre for a 1994 double killing. McIntyre’s case was dismissed in 2017 after the district attorney dropped the charges, finding “manifest injustice.”