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PROSECUTORIAL INDISCRETION

Former prosecutors are appalled by Rachel Mitchell’s questioning of Christine Blasey Ford

Tom Williams/Pool via Reuters
Mitchell was the Republicans’ voice.
  • Hanna Kozlowska
By Hanna Kozlowska

Investigative reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

US Senate Republicans took the unusual step to hire a prosecutor to ask questions for them during congressional hearings today that pitted Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh against Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses him of sexually assaulting her in high school.

This idea, ostensibly aimed at making the Senate Judiciary Committee’s all-male Republican contingent look more sensitive to a female victim of a traumatic event, backfired, according to some former prosecutors watching from the sidelines.

The Republicans’ spokeswoman was Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor specializing in sex crimes. Her tactic in the hearing appeared to be trying to find holes in Ford’s testimony and past statements—both about the incident in question, and anything else Ford has said, including her fear of flying.

Mimi Rocah, a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, chided Mitchell for agreeing to participate in the hearings in the first place.

Here are some of the problems she and other former prosecutors, most of them also TV pundits, found in Mitchell’s performance. We found their comments through Twitter searches.

Bad intentions, bad methods

Allison Leotta, a former federal sex crimes prosecutor who now writes novels, said Mitchell was acting more like a defense attorney for Kavanaugh than a prosecutor.

Preet Bharara, the high-profile former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who was famously fired by Donald Trump, also weighed in. He pointed to an awkward exchange about the timing of a polygraph test Ford took after she came out with her allegations, which she explained to Mitchell was soon after her grandmother’s funeral.

Bad format

Like many other observers, the ex-prosecutors were baffled by the format of the hearing, which involved Democrats and Mitchell taking five-minute turns to question Ford.

At the end, Mitchell herself seemed to admit this was not how victims of sex crimes were usually questioned, suggesting that Ford or the Democrats were somehow to blame for the format.

“Did you know that the best way to do it is to have a trained interviewer talk to you one on one in a private setting and to let you do the talking, just let you do a narrative? Did you know that?” she asked Ford

A hearing, not a trial

Another key flaw identified by the former prosecutors: questioning Ford wasn’t really a job for a prosecutor, since she’s not on trial.

A credible witness

Several pointed out emphatically how credible of a witness Ford was.

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