This page provides a collection of studies and articles on the causes and nature of prosecutorial misconduct and the mechanisms available to address it.
Prosecutorial Accountability After Connick v. Thompson
This Yale Law Journal article suggests that state bar disciplinary authorities do a poor job of policing prosecutorial misconduct. In addition to noting the deficiencies of professional responsibility measures, the authors offer a series of recommendations for enhancing their effectiveness.
“The Myth of Prosecutorial Accountability After Connick v. Thompson; Why Existing Professional Responsibility Measures Cannot Protect Against Prosecutorial Misconduct” by David Keenan, Deborah Jane Cooper, David Lebowitz and Tamar Lerer, The Yale Law Journal Online, October 25, 2011. Available here.
In-depth Investigation into Why Prosecutorial Misconduct is Rarely Punished
Radley Balko, now of The Washington Post, offers a detailed portrait of prosecutorial regulation in this in-depth article from August, 2013. Balko draws on New Orleans’ rich history of prosecutorial misconduct to explain why prosecutors are able to violate the law and not suffer any consequences.
“The Untouchables: America’s Misbehaving Prosecutors, And The System That Protects Them” by Radley Balko, The Huffington Post, August 1, 2013. Available here.
Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct in California
This study is the most comprehensive, up-to-date, quantitative and actionable study on prosecutorial misconduct in California. It examines the more than 700 cases over a twelve-year period where courts explicitly found that prosecutors had engaged in misconduct. It examines the nature of the misconduct, its cost and consequences (including the wrongful conviction of innocent people), and recommends reforms.
“Preventable Error: A Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct in California, 1997 – 2009” by Kathleen M. Ridolfi and Maurice Possley, October, 2010. Available here.
Center for Public Integrity Blog Series
For more than three years, the Center for Public Integrity studied the conduct of local prosecutors and demonstrated that prosecutorial misconduct can happen at any stage of the criminal justice process—before, during and sometimes long after trial.
“Harmful Error: Investigating America’s Local Prosecutors” by various authors, blog series, 2003 Center for Public Integrity. Available here.
ABA Panel Discussion involving John Thompson of Connick v. Thompson
The American Bar Association held its 2012 Mid-year Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, which has been a hotbed of prosecutorial misconduct in recent years. This panel discussion includes, among others, a prosecutor, legal ethicists and John Thompson, a death row exoneree who was wrongfully convicted when prosecutors withheld evidence of his innocence.
“Prosecutorial Accountability in the Post-Connick v. Thompson Era: Reforms and Solutions,” Panel Discussion, American Bar Association Mid-year meeting, New Orleans, February 4, 2012. See video highlights.
Chicago Tribune Series on Prosecutorial Misconduct
This five-part investigation examined the cases of 381 people who had homicide convictions overturned because of prosecutor misconduct between 1963-1999.
“Trial and Error,” Chicago Tribune series, Ken Armstrong and Maurice Possley, 1999. Available here.
Overview of the Legal Basis for Brady and Giglio Disclosure Requirements
This article provides a helpful overview of the history of Brady v. Maryland and subsequent cases that govern the state’s obligations to disclose exculpatory and impeachment evidence. It outlines the why the disclosure of these kinds of evidence is critical to ensure accuracy and fairness in our criminal justice system.
“Brady v. Maryland and its Legacy – Forging a Path for Disclosure” by Maitri “Mike” Klinkosum and Brad Bannon, North Carolina State Bar Journal, Summer 2006. Available here.
Causes & Consequences of Prosecutorial Misconduct in Texas: A Case for Reform
Brandi Grissom, who covered developments in the Michael Morton case, authored this six-part series which explores the causes and consequences of prosecutorial errors in Texas and whether reforms might prevent future wrongful convictions.
“Errors in Judgment: The Consequences of Prosecutorial Mistakes,” The Texas Tribune, Brandi Grissom, Ryan Murphy and Justin Dehn, 2012. Available here.
New York State Bar Examination of Wrongful Convictions
The findings of the NY State Bar Task Force show “government practices” as the second leading cause of wrongful convictions in its study of 53 exonerations. The Task Force recommends six major changes to deal with non-disclosure issues under Brady.
“Final Report of the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on Wrongful Convictions,” The New York Bar Association for the Consideration of the House, 2009. Available here.
ACLU of New Jersey Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct in New Jersey
This study examines the prevalence and nature of prosecutorial misconduct in New Jersey. It explores the costs of prosecutorial error for criminal defendants, for society and for individual prosecutors. Finally, it suggests ways that prosecutors’ offices, courts, ethics boards and defense attorneys can work to reduce future misconduct.
“Trial and Error: A Comprehensive Study of Prosecutor Conduct In New Jersey,” ACLU of New Jersey, September 19, 2012. Available here.