[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/12/09/art.cnn_gavel.copy.jpg]Judge H. Lee Sarokin
The Northern California Innocence Project has published an illuminating and somewhat discouraging report on prosecutorial misconduct in California. The report analyzed 4,000 cases of alleged prosecutorial misconduct from 1997 through 2009 and found that in 707 of those cases there was a judicial finding of prosecutorial misconduct; 3,000 rejected the allegation; and 282 did not make any finding. The report emphasizes that the totals are probably much greater because instances of misconduct may not have been discovered or brought to the courts' attention.
The report stresses the lackadaisical approach of the courts and the state bar to such misconduct. In most cases, despite a finding of misconduct, convictions were permitted to stand, and rarely was the misconduct reported or disciplined, even though some prosecutors were repeat offenders. The authors (Prof. Kathleen Ridolfi of Santa Clara University School of Law and Maurice Possley serving as Visiting Research Fellow at the NCIP) contend that this problem is increasing - not diminishing.
Although some of this conduct may be attributable to winning for the sake of winning, I suspect that it is not motivated by evil, but rather that the zealous prosecutors involved are so convinced of the person's guilt that the temptation to assure a conviction may motivate incidents of misconduct. However, good motives cannot exonerate or excuse misconduct when liberty, and in some instances, life is at stake. The misconduct violates both the oath and duty of prosecutors to seek justice. Most, however, play by the rules and conduct themselves with honesty and integrity.
Filed under: Keeping Them Honest
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with