Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jeffrey Toobin's Powerful Account of Nicholas Marsh

Jeffrey Toobin writes some of the best long-form legal pieces of any contemporary journalist, and he has a powerful article in the current issue of The New Yorker (Casualties of Justice, here (a subscription is required to read the entire article)).


Toobin's article is about Nicholas Marsh, a 37-year old federal prosecutor who committed suicide this past September. Marsh was a member of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section who was involved in the corruption investigation that ultimately led to the conviction of then-Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.

Nicholas Marsh

The Stevens conviction was tossed out by federal judge Emmet Sullivan because of alleged prosecutorial misconduct by Marsh and his Public Integrity colleagues, and a criminal investigation of the prosecution team remains ongoing.

Toobin is convinced that Marsh and his colleagues did not play fair in pursuing Stevens (in particular, potential exculpatory evidence was withheld in violation of discovery requirements), but he is also quite critical of the government's failure to reach closure in the subsequent investigation of the prosecutors.  In particular, Toobin states that Marsh's inability to cope with the "extraordinary delay" (Toobin's phrase) in the third party investigation led by Henry F. Shuelke III likely contributed to Marsh's decision to end his life.

Although the article is well-written and provides a glimpse into the inner workings of a high-level federal prosecution, this is one of the most depressing legal stories I have ever read.  Utlimately, one comes away from Toobin's piece feeling sad for everyone involved.

Ted Stevens