North Carolina Bar Charges Prosecutors With Serious Misconduct in Death Case

The North Carolina State Bar has charged two former Union County prosecutors with lying, cheating, and withholding evidence in a 1996 murder case that ended in a death sentence. The charges state that former Union County District Attorney Kenneth Honeycutt and his assistant, Scott Brewer, each committed 23 violations of the rules that govern lawyers during their 1996 prosecution of Jonathan Hoffman, who was sentenced to death for robbery and murder. The State Bar says that Honeycutt and Brewer lied to the trial judge, the jury and the defense lawyers and knowingly used false evidence during Hoffman's capital trial. Evidence indicates that the two prosecutors hid a deal to reward the state's key witness - Hoffman's cousin who was facing prison sentences in South Carolina and in federal prison - with immunity from state and federal prosecutions, money, and a reduction in his federal sentence. Under standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court, prosecutors must disclose any concessions or immunity they give to witnesses. Last year, Hoffman won a new trial after more than seven years on death row. He remains in jail awaiting his new trial.

State Bar charges of prosecutorial misconduct are rare in North Carolina, and only four prosecutors have been disciplined in the past 10 years. If they are found guilty in a hearing before the bar, Honeycutt and Brewer's punishment could range from a written reprimand to the loss of their law licenses. After an unsuccessful run for the state House of Representatives, Honeycutt retired from his job as Union County's District Attorney. Brewer is now a District Court judge in Rockingham, North Carolina.

(News & Observer, September 7, 2005).  See DPIC's report, "Killing Justice."

To receive weekly emails of DPIC's "What's New" items, click here.