Monday, September 27, 2010

Nicholas Marsh Takes His Own Life

 In 2007 I spent several weeks in the courtroom watching Nicholas Marsh, the totally focused young prosecutor in the Alaska corruption trials.  He was teamed up with Joe Bottini in the Tom Anderson trial and Jim Goeke in the Kott trial.  I heard one of the FBI agents at the time talking about how crazy smart Marsh was.  The news today of his suicide was a shock.

[UPDATE 9/28/10 2pm Alaska Time:  TPM offers more details about Marsh's recent situation.]

For the most part, he seemed to know every fact remotely related to the case and which documents they were in for verification.  During the trials I tried to get background information on the Prosecutors, but the DOJ had none to give.  So I found out, through googling, that Marsh had been a philosophy grad of Williams College, 1995, went on to Duke Law School, and then practiced law in New York before going to the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice.

Clearly, the Alaska corruption cases were the biggest cases in his career and he was going for the win.  His team won the three cases in Alaska and then the Ted Stevens case was tried in Washington DC.  It was then the problems began to come out.  There are a couple of internal investigations going on to determine the extent of the prosecutorial misconduct.

These were big cases, culminating in a conviction of the most senior Republican US Senator a conviction that was soon to be overturned for prosecutorial misconduct.  Marsh was working really hard on these cases.  Moving the case to DC led to changes in the leadership of the legal team.  On October 19, 2008 I speculated on "Why the Mistakes at the Stevens Trial?"  Clearly the prosecutors made some decisions which enraged the judge and led the Obama appointed Attorney General to throw out the verdict in the Stevens case and set up investigations of the attorneys involved.

I've lived long enough to not be too surprised by the differences between appearance and behavior, but I would be surprised if Marsh's involvement in prosecutorial misconduct was any worse than getting carried away in his zeal to convict what he saw as guilty defendants.  I would add that this is no small matter if one's focus blinds one to justice and during the trials already I was seeing signs of how much power the prosecutors had compared to the defendants.  Marsh was on a great career trajectory and it all came crashing down.  He found himself sitting on the other side of the investigatory equation.  I'm sure the pressure on him was enormous - but so was the pressure on those he prosecuted.  His suicide is a shocking and sad development.  My sincerest sympathy goes out to his family.

Below are a few observations I made of Marsh during the trials.  

I observed during the Anderson trial closing I wrote:
Marsh reminded me a little of Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker persona. Kind of wonky, going through the evidence in a very methodical way, until I started to glaze over thinking, "Enough already, I get the point." He even looks a little like him.

Kott closing:
Then Marsh, calm, respectful to all, contradicted what Wendt had just said. His eyes were directed at the jury. A minimum of technical wizzardry. This was not the wonk who did the closing in the Anderson trial, but a sincere and convincing human being.

A post called Beyond the Headlines (July 7, 2007) tried to imagine the meaning of the trial in the lives of the various players.  Here's what I wrote about the prosecutors:
The outcome of this and other trials will surely affect how well her career progresses. The same can be said for the Prosecuting Attorneys Marsh and Bottini. While the outcome of this trial could have some effect on their careers, especially if the outcome is seen as particularly good or particularly bad by their bosses, they do work in a bureaucracy, and there will be plenty of other work ahead. Possibly a brilliant 'win' could mean a lucrative job in the private sector if that was something they wanted. For Defense Attorney Stockler, a private attorney, the outcome of this case could have a much larger impact on his law practice and income. A result of not guilty on all charges could raise his rates quickly.
Here's an APRN news report by Steve Heimel about the closing arguments in the Tom Anderson trial.  You can hear about 20 seconds of Nicholas Marsh speaking in the closing.

Obviously there is a lot of story here that is yet to be revealed.  No matter, this is a sad event.

UPDATE October 8:  Cliff Groh has a lengthy post on Marsh based on several sources.

1 comment:

  1. A very sad day for sure. Marsh was probably the smartest/sharpest guy I had ever met. He told me once that he ate lots of carrots and that helped his memory, I could never tell if he was joking because his demeanor was always the same.


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