Forensic medical expert Cyril H. Wecht provides a vitally needed defendant’s perspective on the terrible Justice Department misconduct that USA Today just documented in a major investigative project.
On Sept. 23, the paper reported 201 criminal cases in which federal judges found that prosecutors broke laws or ethics rules. Overall, the abuses put innocent people in jail, and set guilty people free.
Dr. Wecht’s prosecution didn’t fall within the newspaper’s scope because his first judge in Pittsburgh coddled the prosecution instead of criticizing it. But we at the Justice Integrity Project, a non-partisan legal reform group, documented Wecht’s ordeal from 84 overblown felony charges in 2006 carrying long prison sentences for trivial matters. The defendant achieved victory last year at age 78 when a new judge pressured prosecutors to drop the final charges.
We asked the defendant to describe what it's like to be unfairly accused.
“Once a victim has been targeted,” he wrote back, “there are no limits to the amount of time, energy, money, and use of personnel that the Feds will employ to pursue and persecute that individual. No charge will be considered too petty or unimportant in their efforts to coerce the victim into pleading guilty to avoid the frightening possibility of a lengthy jail term.”
Wecht, who holds both M.D. and J.D. degrees, is a world-famous consultant in his specialty of forensic medicine. Also, he’s a longtime professor of medicine, a leader of medical societies and the author of more than 550 professional publications and many books.
Moreover, he’s an outspoken expert on celebrity deaths, including his courageous criticism of the federal government’s official account of the single-bullet theory for the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy. For 20 years prior to his indictment, he had been elected as the part-time, $65,000-a-year coroner for Allegheny County in Western Pennsylvania, where he was also Democratic county chairman.
-- Andrew Kreig