Bar association investigates prosecutorial misconduct
October 18, 2010
The California State Bar Association is reviewing the records of 130 prosecutors statewide accused of misconduct, and will consider disciplinary action. [Mercury News]
The report by Northern California Innocence Project at the Santa Clara University School of Law found that the majority of California prosecutors use fair methods to prosecute those they believe are guilty.
However, the report noted that over a 13-year period 600 prosecutors have committed misconduct according to rulings by state and federal appellate judges. They range from small technical mistakes to unfair and deceptive tactics to win cases, such as hiding evidence. Sixty-seven of the 600 prosecutors committed misconduct more than once,
The report, which analyzed about 4,000 appellate court rulings from 1997 through 2009, acknowledges that only 130 of the 600 prosecutors were deemed by the appellate courts to have committed “harmful error” — that is, to have done something that altered the fundamental fairness of the trial, prompting the court to set aside convictions or sentences, declare mistrials or bar evidence.
Researchers also found courts routinely fail to report prosecutorial misconduct to the State Bar, as they are required to do in harmful error cases. Prosecutors also often deny that it occurred and the State Bar almost never takes action — at least not publicly.
“This report takes a dynamic new approach to prosecutorial misconduct by naming names,” said Gerald Uelmen, a professor at Santa Clara University’s law school. “For years and years, this has been swept under the rug.”