“We have a broken system. We disbar lawyers for taking two hundred dollars from a client’s escrow account, even if they return it. But there are rarely consequences for someone who has stolen someone else’s due-process rights and possibly put an innocent person in jail.”– New York University legal ethics professor Stephen Gillers in interview with ProPublica
ProPublica takes an insightful and well-rounded look at the issues of prosecutorial misconduct and accountability in its recently published piece, “Who Polices Prosecutors Who Abuse Their Authority? Usually Nobody.”
Drawing on interviews with current and former prosecutors, legal ethicists and their own independent investigation of New York criminal cases between 2001 and 2011, authors Joaquin Sapien and Sergio Hernandez demonstrate the reluctance of those in power to acknowledge prosecutorial misconduct, much less address it.
Here’s a tidbit to get you going. Read the full article here.ProPublica identified more than 50 instances in which appeals courts essentially gave prosecutors such no-harm, no-foul free passes. In a 2009 ruling, for example, a court found that a Manhattan prosecutor should have disclosed a co-conspirator’s statement that the defendant wasn’t actually involved in the shooting he was charged with, but concluded there was “no reasonable possibility that the failure to disclose … contributed to the verdict.” Academics and defense lawyers say such rulings allow prosecutors to engage in bad practices as long as they don’t result in unjust convictions. “If you’re in the Olympics and you’re in a race and you win and then it’s found that you took steroids, they take your medal away,” said Larry Goldman, a former Manhattan prosecutor who is now a defense attorney. “No one says, ‘Oh well, it doesn’t matter if you took steroids, you would’ve won anyway.'” When courts and grievance committees shrug off problematic conduct, Goldman and others said, they miss opportunities to deter more misconduct before it worsens, often disastrously. When prosecutorial misconduct goes unchecked, said Hal Lieberman, a former chief counsel for a New York grievance committee, it “undermines the integrity of the entire system.”