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3 top homicide prosecutors in D.C. step aside

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 21, 2010; B04

Three of the District's top homicide prosecutors are leaving their positions, five months after President Obama named a new U.S. attorney to oversee the office.

Glenn L. Kirschner, who has headed the homicide unit for the past six years, will give up the management position and return to trying cases. Kirschner has prosecuted some of the District's most heinous crimes, such as the 2000 slaying of an undercover Maryland state trooper.

Most recently, Kirschner, 49, was the lead prosecutor in the Robert Wone conspiracy case, which ended in an acquittal for the three housemates charged with covering up Wone's 2006 fatal stabbing when he stayed at their home.

Two of Kirschner's top deputies, Deborah Sines and Daniel Zachem, also are stepping aside. Sines, 58, has served as the unit's No. 2 for a little more than a year and has prosecuted several high-profile cases, including that of Banita Jacks of Southeast Washington, who was convicted of killing her four daughters in 2009. Like Kirschner, Sines wants to return to prosecuting homicide cases full time, sources say.

After 27 years as a prosecutor, Zachem, 52, has decided to leave the office, at least for a year, to spend time with his family, he has told colleagues. Zachem also has prosecuted several high-profile cases, including one involving five men who were attacking visitors on the Mall in 2006.

Most recently, D.C. police officers have publicly criticized Zachem for declining to sign off on an arrest warrant for Orlando Carter, an alleged drug dealer, days before Carter and four other men allegedly orchestrated a March 30 drive-by shooting that left four bystanders dead and six others injured in Southeast. Zachem and the city's new U.S. attorney, Ronald C. Machen Jr., said there was not enough evidence to arrest Carter in a separate killing that involved his brother.

Calls to the three were not returned. There are 30 people in the homicide unit.

The moves come as Machen adjusts to his position, which he assumed in February.

Machen also declined to comment on the moves, but Bradley Weinsheimer, chief of the office's Superior Court division, said the three each individually informed Machen that they wanted to make the changes.

Although the U.S. attorney's office has obtained convictions in several key cases recently, it also has been criticized by crime victim advocates, who say prosecutors have not been aggressive enough in seeking arrest warrants for violent suspects. They are selecting only cases they think they can win, the critics say. Machen has repeatedly denied those allegations.

Prosecutors say that rushing to charge a suspect without proper evidence can result in violating the person's rights and in an acquittal.

Other changes within the office include the creation of a gang unit to focus on violent crimes.

Machen has tapped Washington criminal defense lawyer Vincent H. Cohen Jr. to join him as his No. 2 in the office. Cohen has not returned calls but was recently sitting in Courtroom 310 in Superior Court observing the Wone trial.

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