The Delaware Supreme Court voted unanimously on July 27 to suspend former Deputy Attorney General R. David Favata for intentional misconduct during the capital trial of Isaiah McCoy.
The court overturned Mr. McCoy’s conviction and death sentence earlier this year because of Mr. Favata’s misconduct. The prosecutor’s ethical violations included expressing his own opinion that Mr. McCoy was guilty, repeatedly belittling Mr. McCoy, and lying to the judge.
During cross-examination of the victim’s girlfriend, Mr. Favata objected and said, “She obviously hasn’t spoken to the defendant since he shot her boyfriend.” He told Mr. McCoy to “start acting like a man” and said, “You can dress him up. He’s still a murderer.”
During a court recess, Mr. Favata said in front of Mr. McCoy that he would put a detective back on the stand to tell everyone that Mr. McCoy was a snitch, adding that would cause him trouble in prison. When Mr. McCoy, who represented himself at trial, told the judge about these threats, Mr. Favata denied them. A clerk heard the comments and corroborated Mr. McCoy’s account, and Mr. Favata eventually admitted that he meant for Mr. McCoy to hear them.
The Delaware Supreme Court wrote that the prosecutor’s “conduct set a tone for the trial that was disturbing and unacceptable and increased the potential that the jury would decide the case by discounting the defendant’s version of events for inappropriate reasons, a factor made even more important given the centrality of witness credibility in this case.” It concluded that any sanction other than suspending Mr. Favata’s law license would fail to provide “necessary protection for the public.”
The court suspended Favata for six months and required him to show he has been rehabilitated in order to be readmitted to the bar.
United States Supreme Court Justices recently questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty based in part on the prevalence of prosecutorial misconduct in capital trials.