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Interim U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein may be running D.C.’s federal prosecutor’s office on a temporary basis, but that hasn’t stopped him from shaking up the place. Since his arrival in June, Wainstein has replaced nearly a dozen supervisors and recently announced plans to change the way the Homicide, Major Crimes, and Community Prosecution sections will function. Wainstein’s aggressiveness has caught some in the District’s criminal justice community by surprise. For his part, the 42-year-old Wainstein says he is making changes that he believes will improve the way the most serious cases, namely murders, are handled. “I don’t know how long I’ll be here,” Wainstein says. “I could be here a while. But no matter what ultimately happens, I think it’s in the interest of the office not to stand still for a long period of time.” The bottom-line goal is to slice the city’s murder rate, which stands at 151 homicides this year, by focusing the office’s energy on taking murderers off the streets. Some criminal justice officials, however, fear that the office’s commitment to neighborhood-oriented prosecutions is taking a back seat to a straight hard-line approach to crime. Wainstein, former chief of staff to FBI Director Robert Mueller III, was picked by the Bush administration to replace U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard Jr., who stepped down to build a white collar criminal defense practice at the D.C. office of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton. Initially, Wainstein was tapped to serve a 120-day term, which would have expired at the end of October. Last month, a committee of 15 judges at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia extended that term indefinitely � meaning Wainstein will remain at the helm of the 357-lawyer prosecutor’s office until a replacement is selected. President George W. Bush has yet to name Wainstein, or anyone else, for the post. Wainstein’s future may hinge on the outcome of the Nov. 2 presidential election. “I was not given the job with a limitation,” Wainstein says. “I was given the job with the express mandate to do what is right to improve on performance.” A NEW FOCUS Wainstein has named new leadership in many sections overseeing cases in both D.C.’s federal court and D.C. Superior Court. Clifford Keenan was removed as chief of the Superior Court Section and replaced by G. Bradley Weinsheimer, former chief of the Felony Section. Stevan Bunnell, former chief of fraud and public corruption, was picked to replace Daniel Seikaly as criminal division chief. Seikaly left the office to join Sheppard, Mullin shortly after Wainstein’s arrival. Weinsheimer did not return a call seeking comment. Keenan, now operations director at the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency, declines comment on his transfer. On Sept. 22, Wainstein announced a series of reforms that change the way cases are prosecuted in Superior Court. He says his decisions, which go in effect Oct. 4, were made after meeting with staff, judges, and police officials. The most significant change is the establishment of a stand-alone Homicide Section staffed with 30 to 35 prosecutors. For the past three years, the homicide unit has been combined with Major Crimes, which include attempted murder and repeat offender cases. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has not had a fully staffed, stand-alone Homicide Section in nearly five years. In 1999, then-U.S. Attorney Wilma Lewis disbanded much of the Homicide Section while expanding the Community Prosecution program officewide. The rationale was that most Superior Court cases would be handled on a geographic basis by prosecutors who had become familiar with their assigned neighborhoods. Many veteran homicide prosecutors were reassigned to specific neighborhoods and became responsible for handling all matters stemming from that community � not just murder. A small cadre of about eight prosecutors remained � handling primarily cold cases and other specialized matters. Under Howard, homicides were again centralized, but combined with Major Crimes. The performance of the Homicide-Major Crimes Section came under scrutiny by U.S. attorney officials after The Washington Post reported in September 2003 that prosecutors failed to win convictions in 11 of 15 trials during that summer. According to information provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the section won convictions in 67 percent of its murder trials in 2003. In 2002, it won convictions in 80 percent of its homicide trials. D.C. Superior Court Judge Noel Kramer, presiding judge of the criminal division, says she supports any change that would improve cases brought by the office. “Failure to bring to justice people who commit homicide really undermines the community’s confidence in law enforcement and the courts,” Kramer says. Wainstein says the changes were not spurred solely by the conviction rate, noting that such rates are cyclical and the office has won 82 percent of its murder trials this year. Still, Wainstein, a former homicide prosecutor in the District, says he found that some attorneys without much trial experience were handling the District’s most serious � and most difficult � cases. “Homicide cases assume a higher level of experience,” says Wainstein, noting that such cases usually involve scared or difficult witnesses. “Under the structure before, people getting up there didn’t have that experience.” The lack of trial experience within the office, Wainstein says, can be attributed to the fact that the District did away with jury trials for most misdemeanor cases in 1994. Until then, misdemeanor jury trials were a way for young prosecutors to learn how to pick a jury and manage a case. Now, trial experience primarily begins in the General Felony Section. Another problem, according to Wainstein, is that under D.C. law certain violent crimes in which a defendant is detained have to be tried within 100 days � saddling prosecutors with tight deadliness that take their focus away from murder cases. Prosecutors have about nine months to bring a homicide case to trial once a defendant is arrested. In addition, one former homicide prosecutor says that Howard made Homicide-Major Crimes part of the office’s general rotation � meaning it was no longer an elite assignment that had to be earned. Under Howard, some prosecutors who had been with the office just three years were handling murder cases. “Homicide used to be a senior spot,” says this former prosecutor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Some D.C. police have also been critical of the system and say they welcome the change. One D.C. homicide detective says he has had trouble trying to get murder witnesses interviewed by prosecutors because they were distracted by other matters. “When you have information, you want to act on it immediately,” says this detective, who asked not to be named. “I’ve had situations where you bring someone in and can’t get a prosecutor because they have to be in court on an [assault with intent to kill] case.” Howard says he placed Homicide/Major Crimes into the general rotation because he wanted prosecutors to get experience handling all types of cases in both the local and federal courts. Howard adds that he chalks up any losses to pursuing difficult cases � not inexperience on the part of prosecutors. “We were losing hard cases, which for me is not a problem,” says Howard, adding that an easy way to ensure a good conviction record is to not take difficult cases to trial. “If dangerous people are committing crimes that are tough to prove and you’re letting them go, it’s not good for the community, it’s not good for the office, and it’s not a good way to learn.” COMMUNITY QUESTION The new unit, led by veteran D.C. prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, will handle all murders, including those stemming from sexual assault and domestic violence. Prosecutors will be assigned cases based upon geographic location. Kirschner, a longtime homicide prosecutor who for the past three years tried gang cases in the federal court, says there are about 350 active homicide cases. “I was a little surprised to see the homicide caseloads, which are pretty significant,” Kirschner says. “Unfortunately, the homicide business is good.” Staffing for the section was to be completed by the end of last week. Additionally, Wainstein has split up the combined Grand Jury-Community Prosecution Intake Section. Under Howard, prosecutors in the Community Prosecution Section were responsible for reviewing cases as they came in the door and overseeing proceedings before the grand jury. Wainstein says this added too many layers of bureaucracy. Community prosecutors will no longer have a role in the grand jury portion of a case, but will continue to review cases as they come in the door. Wainstein says community prosecutors will focus primarily on intelligence gathering. The Community Prosecution Section, led by Kathleen O’Connor, will consist of 10 prosecutors � about one per police district � and seven nonlawyer outreach specialists. The prosecutors will gather and feed information to various sections. The office is also looking for a prosecutor to act as an intelligence counsel for the section to identify crime trends and interview defendants. Some criminal justice officials say by limiting their function to intelligence gathering, Wainstein is reducing the role of community prosecutors. Others wonder whether the leadership changes will have an effect on programs such as Superior Court’s community court � where judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers work together to change the cause of a defendant’s criminal behavior. “My fear is that we’re letting go of our commitment to community prosecution,” says one former longtime federal prosecutor in the District, who asked not to be named. “I just think that we’re, in fact, going to be building a system that we had back in the early to mid-1990s” � when the office took more of a straight “law and order” approach to cases rather than one that took into account the problems of specific neighborhoods. And some former prosecutors and other criminal justice officials say it is unclear whether Wainstein’s reforms will remain once a new boss takes over. Many note that each new U.S. attorney puts their own stamp on the office. Homicide chief Kirschner, however, says if Wainstein’s changes are successful, they would be harder to undo

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