The Innocence Project released a study on how prosecutors are held accountable for their misconduct. What they found is that they are largely not held accountable at all. With a growing number of people being exonerated by DNA evidence and numerous cases of wrongful convictions coming to light, the number of prosecutors being charged with misconduct is growing, but why isn’t the number being disciplined?
Since 2004, 91 cases of prosecutorial misconduct have been identified in Texas, cases where the courts decided the prosecutor committed misconduct. But none of these prosecutors were ever disciplined.
“It’s basically bringing down the integrity of all the district attorneys’ offices,” says Cookie Ridolfi, founder of the Northern California Innocence Project.
In their research the group found only one case in Texas where a prosecutor was publicly disciplined after being found to have committed misconduct and that incident was before their scope of their study, prior to 2004.
Prosecutors are the head law enforcement agents in the courts. They are there to hold people accountable for law violations and to enforce criminal laws. Sometimes, however, winning a case means skirting the rules and infringing on the rights of the accused.
Prosecutorial misconduct frequently arises where the prosecutor withholds evidence that could prove a defendant’s innocence or when they make “improper arguments to the jury,” according to the Texas Tribune.
The defendant in a criminal case has constitutional rights which must be protected at every stage of the criminal justice process. If it’s found that the police or the prosecutor violate these rights, there should be recourse for the defendant.
At trial, violations like improper searches are often challenged in hopes of getting evidence suppressed. But prosecutorial misconduct is often not realized until after the case has been resolved and new facts come to light during the appeals process or later.
Because prosecutors represent the state in criminal cases, and their power has the potential to send someone to prison for a very long time, they must be held accountable when they act in violation of someone’s rights or ethical standards. Merely to say they are guilty of misconduct is not enough, particularly when it is often the same prosecutors who make these mistakes again and again.
When you are accused of a crime, the prosecutor is your adversary and your attorney is there to help ensure your rights are protected. This means challenging the prosecutor when they make questionable statements or infringe upon your rights.
If you are charged with a criminal offense, no matter how serious, we may be able to help. Contact our offices today.