Criminal Justice

Another Study Shows Widespread Prosecutorial Misconduct, Little Sanction


In my last column, I wrote about a USA Today study finding more than 200 examples of misconduct among prosecutors in the federal criminal justice system, of which only one faced any serious sanction. (The paper ran a follow-up last week which found that even when the suspect is eventually cleared of all charges in these cases, he still faces massive legal bills, often goes bankrupt, and is rarely reimbursed for his expenses.)

A new study of state prosecutors in California out this week comes to similar conclusions. The Northern California Innocence Project reviewed 4,000 cases between 1997 and 2009 and found prosecutorial misconduct in 707 of them (though they caution that this may underestimate the problem). In only six of those cases were prosecutors sanctioned by the California Bar. I wrote about one of those cases. The prosecutor's boss, Santa Clara County District Attorney Delores Carr, responded by attempting to strip the state bar's ability to discipline prosecutors.

This latest study again confirms what we've seen in similar reviews: prosecutors are almost never sanctioned for misconduct, even egregious violations that lead to wrongful convictions.

Both studies are worth keeping in mind in the coming months as the Supreme Court again considers the degree to which prosecutors should be shielded from civil liability.

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  1. There it is. Ow, my balls.

  2. So this article was in the USA Today last week. A few days later in the opinions section, some whiny little peon from the Attorney General’s department wrote in about how wonderful federal prosecutors are and how hard they work and hardly any of these cases actually result in a prosecutor being convicted…blah, blah, blah.

  3. At the very least, the legal expenses of anyone arrested and prosecuted for a crime should be reimbursed if that person is not convicted of the crime.

    1. At the very least, every case of misconduct should be presented to a Grand Jury for possible indictment.

  4. Another fine example of our Kangaroo Courts at their finest!


  5. What was your name again? Just for the record…

  6. You know that two Americas John, lover boy, Edwards was talking about?

    He was only wrong in indentifying where the dichotomy lies.

  7. I might have to buy the occasional copy of USA Today if they continue to engage in journalism.

    1. Me too. And I’d hate that ’cause their crossword is the pits.

      I only ever look at that rag when it comes free with my [hotel room|upgraded airline seat|other travel expense]. In the past it’s been like a crappy, small town paper without the amusing small town issues.

      1. As i like to put it “USA Today, America’s high school newpaper”. Their recent forays into actual journalism is intereseting.

  8. We just need to promote a few of the lying dirtbag prosecutors to US Senator.

    That’ll teach ’em.

  9. At the absolute very least, anyone charged and not convicted in court should be able to write that expense off of their taxes. I would rather they were reimbursed but I suspect then NO ONE would ever escape conviction.

  10. Why do federal prosecutors do anything? I don’t mean just any of this, I really mean anything? They don’t face election. Why don’t they just collect a check and never show up? What’s to stop them? So it’s not just a question of why they engage in misconduct…someone explain to me why they ever engage in conduct.

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