A report this week released by the Veritas Initiative, associated with the Northern California Innocence Project, reveals numerous cases of prosecutorial misconduct over the years and criticizes the State Bar for not doing enough to penalize those responsible.
In all, according to the LA Times, the report details 707 cases where appeals courts and federal courts determined prosecutorial misconduct had occurred between 1997 and 2009. Among the misconduct noted was failing to turn over evidence that could’ve helped a defendant, presenting false evidence, using race as the basis for disqualifying jurors, and asking improper questions to witnesses at trial.
Prosecutorial misconduct is one of many factors that is cited in cases of wrongful conviction and has most recently come under serious scrutiny across the country. It seems that until recently, cases involving such misconduct were rarely heard of and even more rarely punished.
While it’s important to note that the vast majority of criminal prosecutors are ethical professionals, the simply fact that prosecutorial exists and has been shown to incarcerate and even potentially execute innocent people is reason enough to bring it to the attention of the public.
The Chief Executive of the California District Attorneys Association along with many others are criticizing the report saying, in essence, that the study is making a mountain out of a mole hill. He states that the misconduct was only serious enough to reverse cases in 159 instances out of more than 4,000 appeals.
But, the report argues that the effects of such misconduct have such a drastic potential for damage that even that small percentage deserves to be picked apart and seriously scrutinized. After all, only 6 prosecutors were disciplined out of all of the cases examined.
The prosecutor is essentially the lead law enforcement figure in a jurisdiction. It’s their job to represent the interests of public safety in regards to criminal law. In an adversarial court system, the prosecutor represents the state, working to usually gain a conviction.
Because, however, the justice system of the United States is designed to be a fair and balanced one, even the lead law enforcement figure has to act according to certain ethics and follow certain rules. Of upmost importance is not violating the Constitutional rights of a defendant accused of a crime.
When you are facing criminal charges, it’s your attorney’s job to ensure those Constitutional rights are protected. You are guaranteed certain protections under the law even when accused of a crime despite how certain the prosecutor is of your guilt and even if you are, in fact, guilty.
As a defense lawyers, it’s our job to advocate only on your behalf. If you aren’t guilty we will work to maintain and prove your innocence. If you admit to committing a crime, we are there to make sure the state proves it’s case, fairly and honestly, and fight to ensure you get the best results possible.