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'I Don’t Give A Damn:' Retired State's Attorney Disbarred Over Misconduct In Gruesome 1981 Double Murder Case
Joseph Cassilly, the former state attorney for Harford County in Maryland, was found to have committed numerous ethical breaches during his time as a prosecutor.
A retired state’s attorney in Maryland has been disbarred after exculpatory evidence from a 1981 double murder case was unearthed.
Retired Harford County State’s Attorney Joseph Cassilly was disbarred after the Maryland Court of Appeals determined he’d lied about withholding evidence and over documents that undermined the credibility of an FBI agent assigned to the case, according to The Baltimore Sun. Cassilly defended his actions in the case that became known as "The Memorial Day Murders."
“I’m disappointed, but the real answer is: Do I care? I don’t give a damn,” Cassilly told the newspaper about the court's decision barring him from practicing law. “I wouldn’t do anything to engage in the practice of law right now because it’s such a screwed-up obscenity.”
Cassilly maintained he “fell into the whole anti-criminal justice movement, where the cops are the bad guys, and the prosecutors are the bad guys.”
Judges from the Maryland Court of Appeals stood firm in their decision to disbar Cassilly, who served as Harford County’s State’s Attorney from 1983 until his 2019 retirement.
“Disbarment recognized the seriousness of Cassilly’s misconduct and serves the goal of protecting the public and ensuring the public’s confidence in the legal profession by deterring other attorneys from engaging in similar misconduct,” the judges wrote, according to The Baltimore Sun.
The controversy surrounds the murders of Diane Becker, 21, and her boyfriend, Joseph Hudson, 30, on May 25, 1981, in Abington, according to the Baltimore Sun. Hudson was discovered shot to death on a path a few miles from Becker’s camper while Becker was murdered inside.
Diane was stabbed 33 times and beaten to death with a vodka bottle while her 4-year-old son was fast asleep nearby, according to The Washington Post. The boy was unharmed.
Harford County prosecutors convicted friends John Huffington and Deno Kanaras, accusing the men of murdering Becker and Hudson over cocaine and cash, according to the Baltimore Sun. Kanaras, a key witness for the state against Huffington, was released from prison in 2008 after serving 27 years.
Huffington served 32 years in prison after he was found guilty in 1981. By 2017, however, the courts twice reversed his conviction and granted him new trials after the credibility of FBI Agent Michael Malone came under question, according to the Baltimore Sun. The Department of Justice determined that Malone, who worked in the FBI laboratory's Hairs and Fibers Unit, provided “faulty analysis and scientifically unsupportable testimony” in a separate wrongful conviction and demanded that all his cases be reviewed.
The FBI terminated Malone from his position in 2014.
In November 2017, Cassilly allowed Huffington to enter an Alford Plea in exchange for time served, meaning Huffington maintained his innocence but admitted that there was enough evidence for the state to convict him, according to the Baltimore Sun. Shortly after his release, Huffington filed a complaint against Cassilly with the Attorney Grievance Commission. During the review, Cassilly said he was under no obligation to expose questions about Malone's credibility because he hadn't called him as a witness.
“He doesn’t give an ‘F.’ Doesn’t care, never has,” Huffington said about Cassilly, according to the Sun. “That’s what we’ve been dealing with for 40 years. He doesn’t care what the judges say. He’s got it in his head that he is the arresting officer, the prosecuting attorney, the judge, the jury, and in my case, the executioner.”
Harford Circuit Court Judge Barbara Kerr Howe determined Cassilly abused his power. The Maryland Court of Appeals subsequently disbarred him, asserting the punishment fit, as Cassilly should be held at a higher standard.
“The trust placed in Cassilly as the elected State’s Attorney for Harford County, and the high standard to which prosecutors are held, renders Cassilly’s misconduct much more egregious than that of a lawyer in an official or government position who simply fails to follow proper procedures or rules,” the judges wrote in the ruling, obtained by Oxygen.com.
“Oh, whatever,” Cassilly told the newspaper in response to the court's decision. “I’m retired anyway.”