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District man pleads guilty in slaying; first case dismissed for misconduct

A District man pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder charges in a 2007 stabbing, just one day before he was scheduled to face a retrial in the case. The first case was dismissed because an assistant U.S. attorney admitted withholding evidence from defense attorneys.

Joseph Harrington, 31, of Southeast Washington had been charged in the Aug..18, 2007, stabbing death of Charles Smith in a street robbery. Prosecutors had charged Harrington with four counts, including first-degree murder. After Monday’s plea, Harrington faces eight years in prison.

Harrington was scheduled to appear before D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick H. Weisberg on Tuesday for a second trial. Last year, during Harrington’s first trial, Weisberg declared a mistrial after the prosecutor on the case admitted that she did not pass along testimony to Harrington’s attorney, Tom Dybdahl of the District’s Public Defender Service.

Prosecutors are required to disclose evidence to defense attorneys before trial, even if that evidence could harm their own case, according to a 1963 rule called the Brady decision, based on the Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland.

In the April 2009 hearing, Weisberg said the federal prosecutor “withheld from the defense consciously, deliberately and as a tactic.”

— Keith L. Alexander

By Washington Post Editors  |  March 8, 2010; 4:58 PM ET
Categories:  Homicide , The District  
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