An Orange County judge issued an order disqualifying the entire – all 250 prosecutors – of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting a major death penalty case. The judge was incensed at what Slate Magazine termed “a brazen scheme to manipulate evidence, and prosecutors and police finally get caught.” Apparently the jailers lied to the court, and the DA allowed them to commit perjury despite knowing of their false testimony.
Unethical conduct by prosecutors is occurring with greater frequency. Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit has decried the “epidemic” of prosecutorial misconduct. Recent cases have exposed prosecutors who are so eager to win that they lose sight of justice. They have cheated by hiding evidence, coaching witnesses, rewarding snitches that lie and calling on forensic “experts” who tailor their testimony to help the prosecution’s case.
Sidney Powell, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, has written “Licensed to Lie” which details the dishonest tactics employed by the U.S. Attorneys in several high profile cases. Sidney was a panelist on a very informative panel “Prosecutors Gone Wild” at this year’s CPAC.
Eighty years ago Justice Sutherland described the obligations of a prosecutor, “…while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.”
Today some prosecutors have a very different view of their role. A frequent saying among the aggressive young lions in prosecutors office is: ”Any prosecutor can convict a guilty man. It takes a GREAT prosecutor to convict an innocent man”.
The dramatic increase in exonerations has revealed a pattern of mistakes and misconduct that endangers us. mistaken identifications by eyewitnesses, coerced false confessions, testimony by jailhouse informants who lie in return for money or a reduced sentence, error-prone police labs, and prosecutorial and defense misconduct and incompetence.
This attitude of “win at all costs” is a threat to all of us. If prosecutors are willing to cheat, hide evidence and suborn perjury, what hope is there that an innocent man without the resources to match the government can prevail in the courtroom? The many good prosecutors who are honest and trustworthy must clean up their offices.  Their integrity is being impugned by the thugs among them undermining the confidence of the governed in the criminal justice system.
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Helpful Resources

  • The Innocence Project has done pioneering work in uncovering wrongful convictions, many of which involve prosecutor misconduct.
  • The Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice issued an excellent report of exonerations and the many reasons they occur: prosecutorial misconduct, defense incompetence, mistaken identifications by eyewitnesses, coerced false confessions, testimony by jailhouse informants who lie in return for money or a reduced sentence, and error-prone police labs. The report proposes suggested reforms for each problem area.
  • The Center for Prosecutor Integrity is a good resource for information about prosecutor misconduct. They will be hosting a conference “Innocence Summit” on June 12 and 13 in Washington, D.C.
  • The Open File catalogues misconduct by prosecutors