Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Questioning Missoula County Attorney Van Valkenburg

Posted by on Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Great Falls Tribune Capitol Bureau Chief John S. Adams recently posted on his blog, The Lowdown, a detailed analysis of Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg's decision-making process in a high-profile Montana Innocence Project case.

It's a complicated issue with tons of background, so summarizing here won't do Adams' post justice. I recommend reading The Lowdown piece, titled "Double-standard for perjury in Missoula County?", in its entirety.

But I'll attempt to cut to the chase: In the Montana Innocence Project case, the victim of a prison rape, who was 13 at the time, has said he made up the story. The victim, who is currently serving a sentence in Deer Lodge for underage sex, hasn't signed a sworn statement. Adams suggests it's because Van Valkenburg opposes granting the victim immunity; the victim could be subjected to a perjury charge that would lengthen his stay in Deer Lodge. Meanwhile, the accused, Cody Marble, who has maintained his innocence all along, remains a registered sex offender.

Adams compares Van Valkenburg's unwillingness to work with this new information to a rape case Adams covered in 2006 while working at the Independent. (Full disclosure: In addition to Adams being a former Indy staff reporter, the executive director of the Montana Innocence Project, Jessie McQuillan, is also a former Indy staff reporter.) In that 2006 example, two Missoula police officers admitted to giving false testimony in court.

After comparing the two cases, Adams concludes:

It appears from his statements and actions that Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg places a higher value on preserving convictions than serving justice.

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