Although incidences of prosecutorial misconduct are somewhat rare, it can happen. Prosecutors are not always infallible and can play an integral role in wrongful conviction cases. In fact, national data compiled through the California Innocence Project found anywhere between 36 to 42 percent of overturned convictions based off of DNA evidence were linked to prosecutorial misconduct.
Prosecutors hold a lot of power in the courtroom. Their conduct must represent the highest standards to ensure the accused has a fair trial. However, the stress of the job may cause the person to lose sight of their obligations and do whatever it takes to secure a conviction.
Many prosecutorial misconduct cases relate back to the handling of evidence. Prosecutors may withhold evidence from the defense team or intentionally alter or destroy pieces of evidence. For instance, in 2008, following a corruption case against Senator Ted Stevens, two prosecutors were charged with concealing documents that could have helped the defendant’s case.
Witness coordination is another area of concern. Prosecutors have been accused of pressuring witnesses not to testify or knowingly allowing them to present false testimony to juries. This extends to allowing unqualified forensic “experts” take the stand. On the other hand, prosecutors have the means to offer “incentives” to witnesses who may otherwise not wish to testify. Once they secure a witness, they could provide them with information they wish for them to use in their testimony.
Giving jurors misinformation has been commonly cited in prosecutorial misconduct cases. Worse yet, prosecutors have made inflammatory statements about defendants in order to sway jurors. For instance, in a 1995 case, the prosecutor made racially discriminatory remarks about a defendant during a drug distribution trial.
Thankfully, cases of prosecutorial misconduct seem to be few and far between. However, to protect yourself if you are facing criminal charges, be sure to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.