When you go to work every day, you are expected to perform at a certain level. You may have productivity standards or sales quotas that must be met, and you are almost certainly required to adhere to your company’s code of conduct policies. If you make a major mistake or deliberately break the rules, you are probably subject to some sort of disciplinary process which could ultimately cost you your job. At the very least, you will likely be expected to remedy your error if possible. While such expectations apply to most people who work for a living, it seems that criminal prosecutors—for whom a major mistake or misconduct could ruin another person’s life—are often exempt. A report released earlier this year found that prosecutors who commit misconduct or make serious mistakes in their prosecution of criminal cases are very rarely held accountable for their actions.
Hundreds of Examples
The Prosecutorial Oversight Coalition was formed as a joint project of the Innocence Project, the Innocence Project New Orleans, the Veritas Initiative at Santa Clara University School of Law, and Resurrection After Exoneration to study examples of prosecutor error and misconduct. The group looked at thousands of court decisions between 2004 and 2008 from five states—Arizona, California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas—and found 660 incidents of prosecutor misconduct. In reality, the number is probably much higher, considering how difficult it can be to recognize the behavior as misconduct.
When the cases were heard by appellate courts based on the actions of prosecutors—including misrepresenting and withholding evidence and suborning perjury—a staggering majority of the convictions were upheld. The convictions were only thrown out in 133 cases. The report goes on to state that only one prosecutor faced disciplinary action from any type of oversight authority.
Connick v. Thompson
The report was formally published on March 29, 2016, exactly five years after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a highly controversial ruling in Connick v. Thompson. At issue in Connick was the liability that a District Attorney’s office should have when an individual prosecution team makes mistakes or commits misconduct. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court tossed a $14 million verdict that had been awarded to a New Orleans man who had served nearly two decades in prison for crimes he did not commit. The high court decided that the District Attorney’s Office—as well as the legal profession itself—had provided sufficient oversight and training for its prosecutors, and, therefore, was not liable for the wrongful conviction.
If you are facing criminal charges, you need to be aware of how prosecutorial mistakes or misconduct could potentially affect your case. Contact an experienced Hartford criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation and to get the guidance you need. Call [[phone1]] for a confidential consultation at the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, today.