Criminal Justice

The Unrepentant D.A.

Prosecutorial error in Santa Clara

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In 2007 the San Jose Mercury News revealed that Deputy District Attorney Jaime Stringfield of Santa Clara County, California, had introduced a fake DNA report into evidence in a sex abuse case. In February, responding to the revelation that the district attorney's office had failed to turn over thousands of videotaped interviews with suspects, many of which contained exculpatory information, the county public defender's office announced that it would review 1,500 sex abuse cases for possible wrongful convictions. Later that month, a state bar judge suspended Deputy District Attorney Ben Field's law license for four years based on misconduct in four criminal cases dating back to 1995. And in March, the Mercury News reported that in hundreds of cases, officials at the county crime lab didn't tell prosecutors or defense attorneys when their experts couldn't agree on fingerprint matches.

In short, Santa Clara County has had more than its share of criminal justice scandals lately. The district attorney whose office has been tainted by these incidents has not exactly shown remorse or worked to correct the problems. Instead, Santa Clara County District Attorney Dolores Carr, who ran for office in 2006 on a platform of reforming the office's "win at all costs" mentality, has adopted a combative stance.

At a February meeting of county prosecutors, Carr vowed that none of her staff would be "thrown under the bus" as a result of the scandals. Immediately after the state bar's decision to suspend Field's license—the harshest penalty imposed on a state attorney in 20 years—Carr announced that Field would continue working for her office while he appealed the ruling. She also vowed to help limit the ability of the state bar to punish prosecutors for misconduct.