10 F.3d 338 (6th Cir. 1993), 85-3435, Demjanjuk v. Petrovsky

Docket Nº:85-3435.
Citation:10 F.3d 338
Party Name:John DEMJANJUK, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Joseph PETROVSKY, et al., Respondents-Appellees.
Case Date:November 17, 1993
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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10 F.3d 338 (6th Cir. 1993)

John DEMJANJUK, Petitioner-Appellant,


Joseph PETROVSKY, et al., Respondents-Appellees.

No. 85-3435.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

November 17, 1993

Argued Sept. 3, 1993.

Rehearing and Suggestion for

Rehearing En Banc Denied

Feb. 24, 1994.

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Edward Marek, Fed. Public Defender (briefed), Federal Public Defender's Office, Cleveland, OH, Michael E. Tigar (argued and briefed), University of Texas Law School, Austin, TX, for petitioner-appellant.

Patty Merkamp Stemler (argued and briefed), Dept. of Justice, Crim. Div., Appellate Section, Washington, DC, for respondents-appellees.

Before: MERRITT, Chief Judge; KEITH, Circuit Judge; and LIVELY, Senior Circuit Judge.

LIVELY, Senior Circuit Judge.

The question before the court is whether attorneys in the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), a unit within the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by failing to disclose to the courts and to the petitioner exculpatory information in their possession during litigation culminating in extradition proceedings, which led to the petitioner's forced departure from the United States and trial on capital charges in the State of Israel. For the reasons stated herein we conclude that OSI did so engage in prosecutorial misconduct that seriously misled the court.



This matter is before the court on its own motion, pursuant to an order entered on June 5, 1992. In the June 5 order we stated that information had come to the attention of the court which required us to determine whether this court's affirmance of the district court's denial of John Demjanjuk's petition for habeas corpus relief from an extradition warrant was improvident. See Demjanjuk v. Petrovsky, 776 F.2d 571 (6th Cir.1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1016, 106 S.Ct. 1198, 89 L.Ed.2d 312 (1986).

The order directed the respondents to address certain questions related to the identification of Demjanjuk as the notorious Ukrainian guard at the Nazi extermination camp near Treblinka, Poland called by Jewish inmates "Ivan the Terrible" (Ivan Grozny). The order also set the matter for oral argument on August 11, 1992. The Department of Justice appeared for the respondents.

Following briefing and oral argument, the court entered an order on August 17, 1992, appointing a Special Master pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 53(c). The Special Master was directed to take testimony and prepare a report on the issue of whether failure of government attorneys to disclose exculpatory information in their possession constituted prosecutorial misconduct or fraud upon the court that misled the court into allowing Demjanjuk to be extradited. Pursuant to the government's motion, a clarifying order was entered on August 31, 1992. Copies of the June 5 and August 17 orders are annexed to this opinion as Appendix 1 and Appendix 2, respectively.


The Special Master, United States District Judge Thomas A. Wiseman, Jr. of the Middle District of Tennessee, conducted extensive hearings over a period of approximately six months and received other evidence by deposition. After closing proceedings following oral arguments on April 30, 1993, Judge Wiseman prepared a comprehensive report (S.M. Report), which he filed with this court on June 30, 1993.

Because the district court's extradition order had been based primarily on the record of earlier denaturalization proceedings against Demjanjuk, the master included within the scope of his inquiry actions of government attorneys in the 1981 denaturalization case and later deportation proceedings as well as in the extradition case. Chief Judge Frank Battisti conducted both the denaturalization and the extradition proceedings. The district court's opinion in the denaturalization proceedings is reported at 518 F.Supp. 1362 (N.D.Ohio 1981) aff'd per curiam, 680 F.2d 32 (6th Cir.1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1036, 103 S.Ct. 447, 74 L.Ed.2d 602 (1982). The district court's opinions in the extradition proceeding are reported at 612 F.Supp. 544 and 612 F.Supp. 571 (N.D.Ohio 1985).

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Demjanjuk's claims of misconduct consisted of the government's failure to disclose information that pointed to another Ukrainian guard at Treblinka, Ivan Marchenko, as "Ivan the Terrible." Demjanjuk's denaturalization and deportation orders were based on his alleged misrepresentations concerning his wartime whereabouts and activities at the time he applied for entry into the United States as a displaced person and in his application for citizenship. These orders were based primarily, although not exclusively, on Demjanjuk's failure to disclose his alleged wartime activities as "Ivan the Terrible" at Treblinka. The extradition order was based solely upon the district court's finding that Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible. 1 This was the charge on which Israel sought his extradition, and on which he was ultimately tried and convicted by an Israeli trial court. As the Supreme Court of Israel stated, "the fact the appellant [Demjanjuk] was a guardsman at the Trawniki unit" and similar background evidence "was not the main matter which was set before the authorities in the United States and before the court in Israel, but it was part of the collection of factual information." (Translation of the final section of the decision of the Supreme Court of Israel in Demjanjuk's appeal at 21). The "main matter" before the courts in both countries in all the proceedings, as the Supreme Court of Israel observes, and the records of proceedings in the United States establish, was the "Ivan the Terrible" charge.

We directed the parties to file briefs setting forth their views and arguments respecting the Special Master's report and set the matter for oral argument on September 3, 1993. Following full briefing and extended oral argument the matter was submitted for decision.


The master made findings of fact, largely based on credibility determinations, which absolved the government attorneys of deliberately and intentionally failing to disclose information that they considered exculpatory. Judge Wiseman also found that the various proceedings against Demjanjuk were not affected by political pressures from congressional sources and various Jewish groups in the United States. S.M. Report at 27-28. We are required to accept the master's findings of fact unless clearly erroneous. FED.R.CIV.P. 53(e)(2).


The master considered six specific claims by Demjanjuk that acts and omissions of OSI attorneys described therein constituted prosecutorial misconduct or fraud on the court. These claims related to statements of various witnesses and a report of a Polish investigation that had come into OSI's possession. In each case the master found that government attorneys had failed to disclose or produce documents or other materials that should have been subject to disclosure or production under outstanding discovery requests and FED.R.CIV.P. 26(e). In each instance, however, the master exonerated the government attorneys on one or more of the following findings: either that the attorneys did not believe the materials were within the scope of outstanding discovery requests; that they believed in good faith that the materials did not relate to Demjanjuk; or that a particular attorney then responsible for complying with requests was not aware of the existence of specified materials even though other attorneys who worked on the Demjanjuk cases did know of and had seen the materials.

In making these determinations, the master considered each of the six claims in light of the successive sets of interrogatories filed by Demjanjuk during the denaturalization proceedings. At the time he filed the first set of interrogatories Demjanjuk filed a request for production of documents and stated

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that both were to be treated as of a continuing nature. Question 2 of the first set of interrogatories asked whether a statement had been obtained from any person whose name and address had been sought in Question 1. The respondents argued that they had complied fully by providing names of persons who claimed to have any knowledge of Demjanjuk's alleged activities at Treblinka as requested in Question 1 of the first set. The master refused to accept the OSI attorneys' arguments, stating:

Thus, the defendant specifically asked for the names of all witnesses to the defendant's alleged actions, and whether statements had been obtained from those people. When read in conjunction with Mr. Demjanjuk's first request for production, he clearly had requested all witness statements.

S.M. Report at 165. Similarly, the master found that the government never supplied the names of several witnesses whose identity was required to be disclosed by Question 1.

Another set of interrogatories asked specifically about foreign government reports concerning activities of Ivan the Terrible at Treblinka. The previously described materials from the Polish investigation of the Treblinka atrocities were in the government's possession in 1979, but were not produced until 1982, after the conclusion of the denaturalization proceedings. This failure was an "oversight," according to one government attorney. S.M. Report at 171. Finally, and most significantly, as early as 1978 or 1979 the government had information from official sources within the Soviet Union indicating that there were two Ukrainian operators of the gas chambers at Treblinka--Ivan and Nikolai--and that "Ivan Grozny" was a man named Ivan Marchenko, not Ivan Demjanjuk.


The master found some of the respondents' failures "excusable," some "inadvertent," and most to have resulted from the government attorneys' mistaken understanding of the scope of their duty of production under the discovery requests made by Demjanjuk. Judge Wiseman stated:

[A] careful reading of Mr. Demjanjuk's discovery requests demonstrates...

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