Today, The Justice Project is pleased to announce the release of Improving Prosecutorial Accountability: A Policy Review, which analyzes prosecutorial misconduct and presents comprehensive recommendations to improve the accountability of our nation's prosecutors.
Prosecutors are arguably the most powerful figures in the criminal justice system. Because of their role, the decisions made by prosecutors invariably have an enormous impact on defendants, victims, and their respective families. However, the responsibility of a prosecutor is not to simply seek convictions, but to seek justice. This means that, in addition to convicting the guilty, the prosecutor has a duty to protect the innocent and guard the rights of the accused. But because of a dangerous and pervasive lack of prosecutorial accountability throughout the criminal justice system, prosecutorial misconduct has become a widespread problem, leading to flawed verdicts in our courtrooms and the wrongful convictions of innocent people.
There are numerous examples of prosecutors undermining their duty to seek justice by abusing their power and committing acts of misconduct in order to secure convictions. For example:
Unfortunately, these high profile examples of prosecutorial misconduct are not isolated incidents. The Justice Project's policy review reveals that prosecutorial abuse of power occurs with troubling regularity, and the vast majority of misconduct cases go unnoticed-prosecutors are rarely held accountable when they make egregious errors or abuse their power. Jurisdictions around the country have failed to effectively investigate or sanction prosecutors. This lack of accountability has led to widespread abuse of prosecutorial power, and a flawed and inaccurate criminal justice system.
- Last week, Federal District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered a special investigation of six federal prosecutors tainted with allegations of misconduct that led Attorney General Eric Holder to dismiss the indictment against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.
- In February of this year, the California State Bar recommended the suspension of Santa Clara County prosecutor Benjamin Field from the practice of law for four years as a result of acts of misconduct in multiple criminal cases spanning nearly a decade.
- In June of 2007, North Carolina Durham County District Attorney Michael Nifong was disbarred for suppressing evidence of innocence and making inflammatory public statements related to the prosecution of three Duke Lacrosse players.
The policy review released today explores the systemic causes of prosecutorial misconduct by using recent research, studies, and commission reports on the issue. By implementing the reforms recommended in Improving Prosecutorial Accountability: A Policy Review, states can finally ensure the level of prosecutorial accountability necessary for the fair and accurate administration of justice.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Improving Prosecutorial Accountability