October 2010 Archives

October 5, 2010

Prosecutorial Misconduct Goes Unpunished

Here's a sad, though not surprising, report.  Apparently, in California, prosecutorial misconduct goes unpunished.  According to a blog on the San Francisco Weekly's page, there have only been six cases of California disciplining a prosecutor for misconduct, despite a study identifying prosecutorial misconduct based on appellate decisions in more than 700 cases.

This is troubling for three reasons.  First, most cases plead, and don't result in an appeal.  So, if there are 700 cases where misconduct can be recognized in an appellate court, that radically understates the amount of prosecutorial misconduct out there.

Second, only six prosecutors were disciplined out of the 700 cases; which is incredibly low.

Third, the post only says that they were disciplined.  It doesn't say how they were disciplined.  A discipline can include something like an admonishment; it doesn't necessarily mean that anything actually happened to the prosecutors to prevent them from continuing to engage in misconduct in the future.

This looks a lot like the kind of behavior that one finds in, say, the mortgage industry.  People are put in jobs where misconduct isn't punished, where racking up completed cases (either of mortgages sold or convictions obtained) is rewarded, and where there are few other checks on the actions of the people in the system.  Of course, folks will look into what happens at Enron.  Why won't they investigate prosecutorial misconduct?  Oh, right, because the people who would do that investigation are prosecutors.

If you have questions about how federal criminal charges are different than state criminal charges, please visit this page on Maryland federal criminal charges or Washington DC federal criminal charges.