A rare court ruling; but the perp’s still working in the courthouse

Dan Harmon, the former prosecuting attorney whose deceit lurks at the heart of my book, “The Boys on the Tracks,” has spent his time in prison for racketeering and conspiracy. When he first returned to his home in Benton, Arkansas, he got a job working an early shift as a cook at a local Waffle House. But then some of his cronies from the old days, when his was the biggest swagger in the county, apparently took pity on him. Harmon was given a less hectic job in-putting data at the county clerk’s office in the courthouse.

A few weeks ago he was called to testify in an appeal brought by Raymond Sanders, a man whom Harmon had prosecuted for murder and who’d been sentenced to die for the crime. The attorney who represneted Sanders at the time of his trial was William Murphy, a lawyer who was later convicted with Harmon of running a local drug racket.

In Sanders’s recent petition, he told the court that, prior to his trial, Harmon had made a deal with a key witness—a deal that was not disclosed at his trial. Sure enough, when Harmon was called to testify, he acknowledged that the deal had been made and had been kept secret.

Last week, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a highly unusual ruling allowing Sanders to proceed with a petition for a writ of error coram nobis on the claim that he was denied due process at his trial. A lower court will now have to decide whether he will get a new trial.

And Harmon? Yes, he served his time on the federal charges of conspiracy and racketeering, and that should be the end of that. But what about crimes like this that he committed while in office? Harmon was a very persuasive prosecutor. He put many people in prison, some of whom are still there for drug crimes that were less severe than the ones for which he was prosecuted.

How many other guilty verdicts did he win with the help of undisclosed deals? And why is this person who has so disgraced the law being allowed to work in the courthouse?

It is rare for states to prosecute prosecutors, when cases of prosecutorial misconduct are proven. That needs to change.

In Saline County, Arkansas, the change needs to start at an even more basic point. The prosecutor who engaged in rampant misconduct should not be rewarded with a job in the very institution he so corrupted.

So long as he is there, residents of Saline County, and indeed the state of Arkansas, can rightly feel that court officials feel no need to attempt even the appearance of propriety.