Justice NOT Politics: Hold Prosecutors Accountable for Misconduct in Wrongful Convictions
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Judges, Prosecutors, and Defense Attorneys are rarely held accountable for misconduct even when it is proven that their actions have been responsible for wrongful convictions. As a result, the families and individuals irreparably harmed by their collective judicial malfeasance have no legal recourse or punitive remedies available.
This is an unacceptable practice. Officials should be held accountable for their actions. The right to a fair trial is an American ideal that has been tarnished by judicial dishonesty, cronyism, and neglect. The facts of a case and the truth of the matter should always take precedence over political aims and goals.
The United Statesjudicial system continues to allow false statements, suppression of exculpatory evidence, supposition, coerced testimony, deals in exchange for testimony, and blatant perjury within our nation’s courtrooms. Often, specific instances of the aforementioned have served to exacerbate charges brought against innocent citizens, creating unfounded assumptions of guilt.
Statistics detail the patterns that have resulted in the majority of the wrongful convictions extant within our nation today.
Bureau of Justice Statistics from the United States Department of Justice concede that 8% to 12% of state prisoners are actually or factually innocent. If the error ratio of rightful convictions resides around ten percent nationally, 200,000 innocent people are currently imprisoned for crimes they did not commit and deserve judicial recourse.
Based on a study of 100 death sentences overturned by post-conviction evidence, out of the first 70 cases that were reversed:
•Over 30 of these involved prosecutorial misconduct.
•Over 30 of these involved police misconduct which led to wrongful convictions.
•Approximately 15 of these involved false witness testimony.
•34% of the police misconduct cases involved suppression of exculpatory evidence. 11% involved evidence fabrication.
•37% of the prosecutorial misconduct cases involved suppression of exculpatory evidence. 25% involved knowing use of false testimony. *(Report: 2011 update- The Innocence Project)
Public officials who are responsible for wrongful convictions have often knowingly restricted a citizen’s right to a fair trial, fabricated evidence which has led to a guilty verdict, or engaged in severe prosecutorial misconduct. Many career prosecutors have aggressively pursued life sentences or death sentences for innocent individuals, brazenly accusing people of crimes while having full knowledge of the defendant’s likely innocence. Though many public officials remain impartial and have full respect and dignity for the rule of law, statistics show that judicial malfeasance and prosecutorial misconduct continue to be ongoing problems. Just one wrongful conviction in this nation is a blight upon the system that must be rectified at any cost. Innocent citizens who have had their rights and freedoms stolen deserve recourse against these malignant strains of injustice. It is clear that that we must put an end to the leniency and blind eye turned to official misconduct in order to put an end to wrongful convictions.
We are asking theseUnited Statesand our nation’s fifty States, along with our Senators and Representatives, to create and approve legislation that would allow for:
· Elimination of Absolute Immunity for Prosecutors. While qualified immunity in some regard may be helpful, absolute immunity is not a tool that allows prosecutors to carry out the necessary functions of their jobs. Absolute immunity in circumstances of prosecutorial neglect and malfeasance only serves as a shield for prosecutors who commit criminal acts in the courtroom.
· Mandatory Referral to the American Bar Association. When a Prosecutor or Defense attorney has been found by a court of law to have participated in misconduct, the case should be referred automatically to the American Bar Association for review and consideration for disciplinary action, including disbarment.
·Judges, Prosecutors Must Be Subject to Full Transparency Regarding Histories of Misconduct. Judges and prosecutors are elected officials and WE are their constituents. If corrective or legal action has been taken against these public officials, the public has the right to know.
· Create a Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) in Every District Attorney’s Office in the United States. The Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) should be composed of independent legal, investigative, and scientific professionals tasked with the evaluation of cases suspected to be potential wrongful convictions. This will also serve as an independent body for appeals for future questionable convictions.
Implement Key Wrongful Conviction Preventative Measures That Assist in the Accountability of Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys:
·Require an open file law in all fifty states. These problems will perpetuate themselves so long as prosecutors are permitted to decide what does and does not constitute Brady material. All case materials should go to the defense, and if the state believes specific elements do not reside within the auspices of Brady material, the prosecution should be able to petition the court and ask that the defense be precluded from introducing these. At the very least, a mandate requiring that such matters must be subject to an in-camera review by the court would assist in restoring some level of balance between the prosecution and the defense. Full disclosure of all case materials should be required as a matter of course because most issues regarding withholding of evidence that had the potential to prove innocence but were never introduced at trial could have be easily avoided.
·Mandatory Testing of Physical Evidence. All DNA, fingerprints, clothes, bullets, and pieces of crime scene evidence in criminal cases must be tested and re-tested using the latest in crime lab technology at a reputable lab by unbiased professionals.
·Require Video Taping of All Police and Attorney Interrogations and Interviews.
All officers of the law act in an official capacity that should be subject to independent review if this is deemed necessary in the future. Therefore, attorney and law enforcement interrogations and interviews with the accused, witnesses and informants, excluding instances in which attorney-client privilege are at issue, must be videotaped in order to preserve justice, maintain neutrality, and preserve the rule of law.
In addition to the recommendations above, we support suggestions from the Liman Prosecutorial Misconduct Research Project at Yale Law School:
·Expand Rule 3.8 to more completely address prosecutors’ full range of responsibilities, including discretion in investigating and charging crimes and in negotiating pleas.
·State Supreme Courts should control the states’ disciplinary processes.
·Enforced discretion in investigating and charging suspects to avoid cases of misconduct.
·Randomized auditing of cases to discover and correct cases of prosecutorial misconduct.
·Automatic filing of ethics complaints, triggered whenever a court finds that a prosecutor has behaved unethically.
If consequences existed for the negligent or malignant actions of individuals elected to seek truth in legal cases, there would be less misconduct and more justice. Those who knowingly and purposefully implicate and incarcerate innocent people must be subject to the rule of law and the will of the people. If we turn a blind eye to injustice, innocent citizens imprisoned for others’ crimes will never regain the lives they deserve and the freedom to return home to their loved ones.
Please sign this petition and join us in collectively asking the American judiciary and all who work and take part in our nation’s legal system to seek verdicts based on Justice NOT Politics.
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