Local Murder Case Could Be Thrown Out After Prosecution’s Mistake

By Denise Lavoie, Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Murder charges against a Massachusetts man accused of stabbing another man after a brief altercation could be dismissed because prosecutors allowed a grand jury to hear a confidential conversation between him and his lawyer.

The conversation was recorded while Jonathan Niemic, 23, was in a Dartmouth county jail and talking on the phone with his lawyer, Robert Griffin. The recording was played to the grand jury that later indicted Niemic.

Now Griffin is asking a judge to throw out the murder case against Niemic, who is accused of stabbing 34-year-old Michael Correia of Fairhaven after the two men had a brief argument and fistfight. Griffin argues that giving the grand jury the recording violates the sacrosanct legal principle of attorney-client privilege and amounts to “egregious prosecution misconduct.”

The blunder by prosecutors has created a buzz in the state’s legal community.

“This is the most hallowed aspect of our criminal justice system. If you cannot have a conversation with your lawyer that you know is going to be privileged, then the entire system falls apart,” said Christopher Dearborn, a professor at Suffolk University Law School.

Most telephone conversations in Massachusetts jails are recorded, with the exception of conversations between lawyers and their clients. Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, who runs the jail where Niemic was being held, said the recording system automatically shuts off when it recognizes the phone number of an attorney.

The sheriff’s office keeps a list of about 15,000 telephone numbers developed from the Massachusetts directory of lawyers.

But in Niemic’s case, his lawyer’s phone number was not in the system, so the call was inadvertently recorded, Bristol District Attorney Sam Sutter said. He said Griffin did not give to the sheriff’s office the phone number he gave to Niemic, so the system did not recognize it and recorded the conversation.

“It was an accident. It was unintentional. It was inadvertent,” Sutter said. “We would never want to introduce a conversation between a lawyer and his client.”

Neither Sutter nor Niemic’s lawyer have said whether anything significant was disclosed during the conversation.

Sutter said all parties to jail conversations are warned through a recording that calls are being monitored and recorded, and he does not understand how Griffin could not know the call was being recorded.

Sutter’s explanation has not appeased critics, who are supporting Griffin’s call for the murder case to be dismissed.

“It is totally improper for a prosecutor to introduce evidence of attorney-client conversations as they did. I dare say that a second-year law student would know that it was improper,” said Edward Ryan Jr., a defense lawyer and former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

“There is simply no excuse for an allegedly experienced prosecutor doing that,” Ryan said.

Assistant District Attorney Aaron Strojny, who submitted a compact disc with the conversation on it to the grand jury, did not return a call seeking comment.

Griffin, a former state prosecutor, also did not return calls seeking comment. In a motion filed in court, Griffin asked a judge to dismiss the murder charge “with prejudice,” meaning prosecutors would be barred from seeking a new indictment against Niemic in Correia’s death.

“The conduct of the prosecution in this case was so egregious and prejudicial to the defendant so as to warrant dismissal of the charge now pending against him,” Griffin said in his motion.

Dearborn said it doesn’t matter how the phone call got in front of the grand jury.

“This was clearly an enormous error by the prosecutor, and the problem is — whether it’s misfeasance or malfeasance — it shouldn’t matter at some point,” he said. “The standard we hold our prosecutors to has to be high enough that they when they undermine the attorney-client privilege to the extent it happened in this case, there has to be an appropriate remedy.”

Sutter said that because of the jail’s policy of not recording attorney-client phone calls, Strojny “had no reason to think there was an attorney-client call on that CD.”

“Should the prosecutor have listened to that CD before marking it as an exhibit — yes,” Sutter said. “Were there mitigating circumstances? I think there were.”

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for March 28.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

  • barney

    Something here is fishy. MY bet- the prosecutor knows the criminal or someone in authority does and they wanted this case stopped. To simple of a mistake to be anything else.

  • RJ O'Guillory

    – The Illusion –

    America shimmers, losing shape,
    lost souls, the weakest generation.
    Democracy stumbles, people awaken,
    trouble on America’s plantation.

    America stands strong and free,
    a land of life and liberty?
    Indentured servants, ever on,
    from sea to shining sea.

    Laws for this, laws for that,
    control of the air you breathe.
    Nanny State, exploding prisons,
    Stalinist tits, on which we teethe.

    House and Senate, bought and sold,
    mortgaged by corporate donations.
    Court Supremes, selling their soul,
    torture’s cool, but do it in other nations.

    Traitors act, as though elected,
    a free and fair republic?
    Lying thieves, electronic frauds,
    in office to cheat the public.

    Bankers steal, Pelosi jets,
    stimulating this and that.
    Leadership so corrupt, so brutal,
    little need to trim the fat.

    China profits, Brazil prospers,
    around us the world grows.
    Bush and Clinton, hold their power,
    JFK? Oh, no one knows?

    It’s falling apart, not so funny,
    at least I’m close to passing.
    Before the riots, the martial law,
    before Obama starts the gassing.

    Long before the troops deploy,
    during all the effing’ confusion.
    Lucky enough, simply to know,
    our lives were just an illusion.

    RJ O’Guillory / Author / Webster Groves-The Life of an Insane Family

    • blackbear1

      RJ O’ you might consider finding a newer, happier place to live for yourself. I wish I could help you with suggestions, but I just can’t seem to come up with someplace that would work for you. Good Luck.

      • gramps

        Be real!

        You’re here to ‘PUSH’ your book!


      • RJ O'Guillory

        …actually,…I’m not technically a “gramps” yet, but I feel like one all the same…
        I’m retired from the US DoD after twenty years of world travel and fighting corruption as a, (this is funny),…a “federally protected whistle blower” Ha!….

        I found out at 49 that I’d been genetically epileptic my whole life…then at 51, I tried to drive a car in a post seizure fugue-state…(unknowingly)…and I drove off a two-hundred foot cliff, flipped 8 times and was thrown fifty feet from the car as I was sucked out the closed back window….broke my neck, back ribs, tailbone and gashed a19 staple hole in my head…so “gramps” is just about gettin’ it!

        …the seizures kind of screw with me, and I am fairly decrepit…but my book has nothing to do with my adult life,..as I grew up in a family of corrupt law enforcement and my 6’9,350lb, drunk,corrupt, racist St. Louis City Cop Dad…
        while Mom embezzled thousands as the court clerk…and the brother got into some counterfeiting….Ha! Ha!

        …so you are kind of correct…my opinion about the degree of corruption in our world is based upon a lot of what I’ve seen as a child (corruption/idiocy/theft)…
        and my experiences with the corrupt government agency I worked for….

        ….I’m not sure that posting my opinion is all about promoting my book…but yes, I guess it does help,..eh?


        RJ O’Guillory
        Webster Groves-The Life of an Insane Family

      • RJ O'Guillory


        ….fairly soon all of us are going to wish we lived in a “happier place”..my poem is to help illustrate the decay, dysfunction and corruption inherent in our country and. government…I get that you are offended…but try working for DoD for over 20+ years, travel the world on their dime…and live for over two decades as a “Federally protected whistle-blower (ha!)…

        The you will understand the degree of corruption better..


        RJ O’Guillory
        Webster Groves-The Life f an Insane Family

  • http://www.virtuallocalphonenumber.com/756/local-phone/local-murder-case-could-be-thrown-out-after-prosecutions-mistake.html Local Murder Case Could Be Thrown Out After Prosecution's Mistake | Virtual Local Phone Number

    […] Local Murder Case Could Be Thrown Out After Prosecution's Mistake The conversation was recorded while Jonathan Niemic, 23, was in a Dartmouth county jail and talking on the phone with his lawyer, Robert Griffin. The recording was played to the grand jury that later indicted Niemic. Now Griffin is asking a judge to … Read more on CBS Local […]

  • firemanmark

    Do I sense a wee bit of sarcasm? We are losing the America that was guaranteed by the constitution before Socialist-Liberals (Kennedy,Obama,Carter et.al.) brought us down the road to immoral decay and Big Brother Nanny-state indoctrination.Apparently one has to know a little about American History which Liberals don’t.Perhaps,blackbear1,we can all vote in November in numbers large enough to kick the great pretender out into the cold,lonely,January streets.All the way back to the land of his father.No,not Hawaii.

  • RJ O'Guillory

    – Goin’ to Gitmo’ –

    Thought I’d go European,
    perhaps a Baghdad tour.
    Patriotic loud-mouth,
    getting the Cuban Sunshine Cure.

    Afflicted though I truly am,
    with dreams of liberty and life.
    Refusing to be tricked again,
    leaves a life of self-inflicted strife.

    Must have been somethin’ I said,
    over my wife’s borrowed phone.
    Pursued by cops and courts,
    for lack of subservient tone.

    Chances are they’ll drag me,
    to the thorn in Castro’s side.
    Bind me, board me, beat me,
    expose America’s moral slide.

    Some just won’t shut up,
    so punch our tickets today.
    Criminals and thugs decide,
    who goes to Guantanamo Bay.

    I suppose we all pay the price,
    as our country plunges below.
    A black line of decency…,
    ”we’ll all be goin’ to Gitmo”

    RJ O’Guillory / Author / Webster Groves-The Life of an Insane Family

  • RJ O'Guillory

    – The U.S. of Hollow –

    Junior demons litter the culture,
    sucking up all that’s left.
    The Elder knew how to pick em’
    The Boy claimed no such heft.
    Picked apart and long picked over,
    our bird of Giving Thanks.
    America, finally laid to rest,
    by her own traitorous Yanks.
    Liberty and Freedom,
    need no such plan to follow.
    Bleeding slowly across our land,
    The United States of Hollow.

    RJ O’Guillory /Author/ Webster Groves-The Life of an Insane Family

  • Susan M

    The conversation may have been recorded by accident, but it wasn’t played to the grand jury by accident.

  • millionaire society

    The quick brown

  • http://boston.cbslocal.com/2012/06/02/man-sentenced-for-stabbing-murder-outside-dartmouth-soup-kitchen/ Man Sentenced For Stabbing Murder Outside Dartmouth Soup Kitchen « CBS Boston

    […] case was nearly thrown out after prosecutors allowed a grand jury to hear confidential tapes between Niemic and his attorney. Despite the prosecutors’ mistake, a judge had refused to […]

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