Prosecutor Failure to Prosecute Cross-Complaints
A policy implemented by a city’s police department and the county’s district attorney against entertaining criminal cross-complaints was held to hear no rational relationship to a legitimate governmental interest in impartial law enforcement, and thus violated the equal protection rights of an arrestee who was named as the perpetrator in an original complaint arising out of the commission of a crime. The court found that the assumption that the original complainant was the true victim caused the police to fail to investigate further, and the prosecutor to consider evidence potentially favorable to the arrestee.
The court deemed the policy to be based on irrelevant and irrational considerations. ‘[a] first come-first served policy also runs contrary to the objectives of law enforcement to protect the public, since it inhibits collection of the fullest possible information from all sources relating to a potentially criminal incident.’ [Myer v. County of Orange, 870 F.Supp.] at 557.
By undermining the ability of the police department and the DA to gather all available evidence, the cross-complaint policy creates an unnecessary risk that innocent persons will he prosecuted and possibly convicted.
In sum, by severely distorting the ends of justice in an attempt to resolve complaints efficiently, the cross-complaint policy serves no legitimate governmental interest. We note that Port Jervis conceded as much at oral argument. “Orange County replies that ‘prosecuting both cross.. . complaints simultaneously’ would create ‘the appearance of a conflict or impropriety’ and cause unnecessary ‘delay and expense.’
The issue, however, is not whether a DA must prosecute cross-complaints simultaneously, but whether a DA and a police department must entertain cross-complaints on the same basis as original complaints, investigate all complaints based on the circumstances of the case rather than on the order in which they were filed, and on that basis determine who, if anyone, should be prosecuted.
To fail to do so, we believe, distorts the even-handed pursuit of justice and violates the Equal Protection Clause.” See Myers v. County of Orange, 15 E3d 66 (2nd Cir. 1998); cert. den., 64 CrL 216! (1999).