Prosecutorial Oversight Coalition Responds to Texas District and County Attorney Association’s report on Prosecutorial Misconduct
Contact: Paul Cates, Innocence Project, 212-364-5346, email@example.com
(New York; September 10, 2012) — Today the Texas District and County Attorney Association issued a report, “Setting the Record Straight on Prosecutorial Misconduct,” that is critical of data about the scope of prosecutorial misconduct in Texas that was released by the Prosecutorial Oversight Coalition prior to a forum on prosecutorial misconduct at the University of Texas Law School on March 29, 2012. When releasing the data, the Prosecutorial Oversight Coalition made it clear that the data being released was not a final report and acknowledged that the lack of transparency and accountability on the issue made it extremely difficult to provide data fully illustrating the problem. The coalition’s intent on releasing the data was to spark a conversation with prosecutors and other policy makers about policy and systematic solutions for preventing the problem.
“While we are puzzled that the Texas District and County Attorney Association felt the need to disparage our work, especially given the fact that we took pains to acknowledge the limitations with our research, we’re pleased that they are taking the problem seriously,” said Cookie Ridolfi, professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and Executive Director of the Northern California Innocence Project and the Veritas Initiative. “We’ve always said that we couldn’t solve this problem without the support of prosecutors. We’re delighted they have made some recommendations and look forward to discussing these with them as we develop our final recommendations.”
The coalition’s research was conducted by the Veritas Initiative, which reviewed all of the published trial and appellate court decisions addressing allegations of prosecutorial misconduct between 2004-2008. To see what, if any, consequences prosecutors face for their misconduct, Veritas looked at Texas’ public attorney disciplinary records from 2004 to November 2011. At the forum and in all the written materials about the data, the coalition was careful to note the distinction between intentional misconduct and error. The press release and the PowerPoint presentation presenting the data didn’t attempt to classify the data in any way other than to say that courts made 91 findings of error during the 5 year period, and that the error had been deemed harmless 72 times.
While the distinction of whether misconduct is intentional or not is important for assessing whether a prosecutor should be disciplined for his or her actions, any prosecutorial error – intentional or not – can lead to wrongful convictions. The goal of the national tour organized by the coalition is to develop policy and systematic solutions for reducing prosecutorial error and holding prosecutors more accountable for misconduct. After forums in California and Pennsylvania this fall, the coalition will release a final report with recommendations. Additional information about the tour is available at www.prosecutorialoversight.org