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Morton's Attorneys Comment on Anderson's Resignation

Posted: September 25, 2013 5:15 pm





Tags: Texas, Government Misconduct, Michael Morton

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James Giles is expected to be cleared of 1982 rape on Monday

Posted: April 6, 2007

In a hearing Monday in Dallas, Innocence Project attorney Vanessa Potkin and attorneys from the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office will present evidence that proves James Curtis Giles didn’t participate in the 1982 gang rape for which he served 10 years in prison. Giles, 53, has been on parole as a registered as a sex offender for 14 years.

The crime was committed by three men who were acquaintances, and police were told that one was named James Giles. The victim identified James Curtis Giles in a lineup, even though he did not match her initial description of the perpetrator. DNA evidence now links two other men to the crime – and shows that they were both closely associated with another man, James Earl Giles, who lived near the crime scene and fits the victim’s initial description. New evidence shows that information linking the three true perpetrators to the crime – James Earl Giles and the two other men – was available to police and prosecutors before James Curtis Giles was convicted, but was illegally withheld from his defense attorneys.

Giles has fought for nearly two decades to prove his innocence. The Innocence Project began investigating his case in 2000, and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office began reinvestigating it earlier this year after the Innocence Project filed initial legal papers to vacate the conviction. New evidence from both investigations will be presented in court Monday. He will still not be officially exonerated, however, until he is granted a writ of habeas corpus from Texas’ highest criminal court or a pardon from the governor.

On Tuesday, Giles will join Texas exonerees James Waller, Chris Ochoa and Brandon Moon, Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck and legislators in Austin for a press conference and legislative hearing on bills to improve the criminal justice system in Texas.

Read more on this case in today’s news:

Rape victim is for exoneration: She ID'd man, now backs DA's bid to clear him in '82 case (Dallas Morning News, 4/6/07)

Hearing set for man who claims innocence in 1982 rape (Houston Chronicle, 4/5/07)

For more information on attending the hearings and press conferences Monday and Tuesday, email us at info@innocenceproject.org



Tags: James Giles, Government Misconduct, Eyewitness Misidentification

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Federal jury awards compensation to wrongfully convicted man

Posted: May 1, 2007

Herman Atkins was convicted in 1988 of a southern California rape he didn’t commit. Yesterday, a federal jury ordered the Riverside County to pay him $2 million because a detective had falsified evidence that led to his conviction. Evidence presented at the civil trial showed that a statement allegedly made by a witness connecting Atkins to the area of the crime was fabricated.

"When I was in prison, one thing that motivated me was something my grandmother often said to me. She said, 'A lie will die, but the truth lives on.' Today, Detective Miller's lies were not only exposed but put to rest, and the truth lives on as my grandmother said," he said.

Atkins, now 41 and living in Fresno, said he hoped to start a graduate program in psychology or go to law school. He and his wife have started a small foundation to help others who have been exonerated adjust to life outside prison.

Read the full story. (Los Angeles Times, 5/1/07, Payment required for full article)

Atkins served over 11 years for the 1986 rape before DNA evidence led to his exoneration in 2000. Read more about his case here.



Tags: Exoneree Compensation, Government Misconduct

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Oklahoma man exonerated from death row

Posted: May 11, 2007

Innocence Project client Curtis McCarty was freed this morning after more than 21 years of wrongful incarceration – including 16 on death row – when a judge dismissed the charges that would have led to his third trial for a 1982 murder. McCarty had been convicted twice but both convictions had been thrown out by appeals courts. DNA testing has now shown that semen and hairs recovered from the crime scene do not match McCarty.

McCarty was released this morning after judge Twyla Mason Gray dismissed his indictment, saying the misconduct committed in McCarty’s case was inexcusable. District Attorney Robert H. Macy and lab analyst Joyce Gilchrist both committed serious and repeated misconduct to secure McCarty’s conviction. Gilchrist was fired in 2001 due to fraud she committed in McCarty’s case and others; she was involved in at least two other convictions later overturned by DNA testing.

"I want to know, where is Joyce Gilchrist and why isn’t she in prison?" Gray said at this morning’s hearing, according to the Oklahoma Gazette.

Macy, who was the Oklahoma County District Attorney for 21 years, prosecuted McCarty in both of his trials. Macy sent 73 people to death row – more than any other prosecutor in the nation – and 20 of them have been executed. Macy has said publicly that he believes executing an innocent person is a sacrifice worth making in order to keep the death penalty in the United States.

"This is by far one of the worst cases of law enforcement misconduct in the history of the American criminal justice system," said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. "Bob Macy has said that executing an innocent person is a risk worth taking – and he came very close to doing just that with Curtis McCarty."

McCarty is the 201st person exonerated by DNA evidence in the United States and the ninth in Oklahoma. Fifteen of the 201 exonerees spent time on death row.

Read the full Innocence Project press release here.



Tags: Oklahoma, Curtis McCarty, Government Misconduct

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Oklahoma man exonerated – more media coverage

Posted: May 14, 2007

After 21 years behind bars – including 16 on death row – Curtis McCarty was freed on Friday when an Oklahoma City judge dismissed charges that would have led to his third trial for a 1982 murder he didn’t commit. DNA testing in recent years has proven that someone else committed the crime.

Read more about McCarty’s case in the Innocence Project press release, and view media coverage of the exoneration below.

Los Angeles Times: Judge frees oklahoma man facing execution

Oklahoma Gazette: Judge releases McCarty; rips former chemist

The Oklahoman / News 9: Ex-death row inmate freed (with video)



Tags: Oklahoma, Curtis McCarty, Government Misconduct

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Louisiana exoneree starts reentry program

Posted: June 6, 2007

John Thompson spent 18 years in Louisiana prison – including 14 on death row – for a murder he didn’t commit. When a prosecutor made public that he had concealed evidence at Thompson’s 1984 trial that could have proven his innocence, he got a new trial and was acquitted of the charges in 2003.

Thompson was released with a small bag of possessions and given $10 for bus fare. He says he founded Resurrection After Exoneration to make sure that no future exonerees are dropped into freedom like he was. And he was recently awarded a two-year, $60,000 grant from Echoing Green to build RAE’s capacity.

Thompson said the wrongfully convicted have a hard time finding a place to live where they can be at peace. Most are forced to move in with family members, which can cause turmoil. Former inmates often have difficulties communicating because no one understands what they’ve been through and the effect it’s had on their psyche.

“You can’t communicate with your family. You don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing,” Thompson said. “You’re supposed to get a job but because of your record or attitude you can’t. It’s not what we wanted to come home to but we have no choice. And that’s the worst — being a grown man having to depend on someone else for help. And it all goes back to that one thing — what I experienced in that prison but no one wants to recognize it.”

Resurrection After Exoneration will offer the wrongfully convicted a place to live, jobs and courses in how to manage finances. Participants will be asked to set aside at least 25 percent of their paychecks in savings accounts. After a year, RAE will match the savings to help find independent housing.

Read the full story. (New Orleans City Business, 06/04/07)
NOTE: Because Thompson was not exonerated as a result of DNA testing, his case is not listed as one of the 202 DNA exonerations tracked by the Innocence Project.



Tags: Louisiana, Exoneree Compensation, Government Misconduct

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Texas murder conviction overturned

Posted: June 7, 2007 9:46 am

Michael Scott was convicted in 2002 of killing four teenage girls in a notorious Austin murder 11 years earlier. He allegedly confessed to his involvement in the crime along with another man, Robert Springsteen. Yesterday, Texas’s highest court overturned Scott’s conviction because Springsteen’s confession was improperly used against Scott at trial. Springsteen’s conviction has also been thrown out and he is expected to be tried again.

Scott and Springsteen have claimed that their confessions were coerced during long hours of interrogation by the Austin Police. Part of Scott’s interrogation was videotaped, and the tape shows a detective holding a loaded gun against Scott’s head.

Ariel Payan, the lawyer handling Scott’s appeal, says he always knew this day would come. He encourages detectives to look elsewhere for the yogurt shop murderer or murderers.

“There were fingerprints found inside the cash drawer where the money was stolen,” Payan said. “You have ask yourself, if there are fingerprints there that weren't traced to anybody, doesn't that mean that there is someone else?

Read the full story here. (CBS 42, 6/6/07)
Read the court’s opinion here.

Read background on the case here.



Tags: Texas, False Confessions, Government Misconduct

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Unheralded exonerations

Posted: June 18, 2007 5:31 pm

The case of three Duke lacrosse players who were wrongly accused of rape last year has been making headlines nationwide for months. But a column in New York Newsday today questions why the Duke case has sparked more outrage nationwide against overzealous prosecutors than the 203 wrongful convictions that have been overturned by DNA testing.

I don't want to minimize these young men's suffering over the last year, or to downplay the injustice that was done to them. But the public outcry over this case has a lot to do with the fact that these were three white guys from upper-middle-class families who got railroaded. And because they could afford first-rate, aggressive lawyers, in the end the criminal justice system worked for them.

Whatever humiliation and pain they suffered over being wrongly accused pales in comparison to what happens on a regular basis to countless other defendants, many of them black or Latino men, who are charged, convicted and spend long years in prison for crimes they didn't commit.

Read the full column here. (Newsday, 06/18/07)
Read more about prosecutorial misconduct in exoneration cases.



Tags: Government Misconduct

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The legacy of the Duke case

Posted: June 19, 2007 1:55 pm

An editorial in today’s Anniston (Alabama) Star looks forward to the legacy of the case of three Duke lacrosse players falsely accused of raping a woman in North Carolina. Charges were dropped earlier this year and the original prosecutor was disbarred yesterday. The editorial says the Duke case should lead the public to hold overzealous prosecutors accountable for operating outside of the law.

As the Innocence Project’s record attests, men and women are falsely accused more regularly than one would imagine. Most of them do not have the luck of being fabulously wealthy and are not able to hire top-dollar lawyers.

These unseen victims are often set on a path to jail by zealous prosecutors who aren’t willing to look at all the facts. Those falsely accused rarely become a cause for the right or the left. They mostly languish in prison hoping someone will pay attention.

Read the editorial here. (Anniston Star, 06/19/07)
Read yesterday's blog post on this issue



Tags: Government Misconduct

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California commission considers prosecutorial misconduct

Posted: July 12, 2007 11:18 am

The director of the Northern California Innocence Project < http://www.ncip.scu.edu/> told a panel studying the state’s criminal justice system yesterday that prosecutorial misconduct needs to be addressed.  She said studies had shown that misconduct was widespread.

"Prosecutorial misconduct occurs with some frequency in this state and prosecutors are rarely disciplined for their misconduct," Santa Clara University law professor Cookie Ridolfi said at a hearing at Loyola Law School.
Prosecutors at the meeting disagreed, saying that current rules of conduct were sufficient.
Michael Schwartz, a deputy district attorney in Ventura County, countered that a close look at the available data shows that prosecutorial misconduct occurs in less than 1% of all cases. "I am not sensing that we have a crisis of prosecutorial misconduct … it doesn't seem like we need new rules."
Read the full story here. (Los Angeles Times, 07/12/07)
The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice held the hearing yesterday as part of its ongoing review of possible flaws in the criminal justice system. The commission, one of six “innocence commissions” nationwide, was created in 2004. Currently, three bills pending before the state legislature address other issues addressed by the panel: false confessions, jailhouse informants and eyewitness identification procedure.

Read more about the reform bills pending in the California legislature.

Read more about the six Innocence Commissions nationwide.





Tags: Government Misconduct

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How common is prosecutorial misconduct?

Posted: August 3, 2007 5:35 pm

In an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, Professor Richard Moran considers malicious prosecutions and government misconduct that leads to wrongful convictions. In the case of four men awarded more than $100 million last week by a federal judge for the wrongful conviction they suffered in 1965, Moran says the withholding of evidence by FBI agents was malicious and should be punished. And this type of misconduct may not be as rare as we think, Moran says.

Mistakes are good-faith errors — like taking the wrong exit off the highway, or dialing the wrong telephone number. There is no malice behind them. However, when officers of the court conspire to convict a defendant of first-degree murder and send him to death row, they are doing much more than making an innocent mistake or error. They are breaking the law.

Perhaps this explains why, even when a manifestly innocent man is about to be executed, a prosecutor can be dead set against reopening an old case. Since so many wrongful convictions result from official malicious behavior, prosecutors, policemen, witnesses or even jurors and judges could themselves face jail time for breaking the law in obtaining an unlawful conviction.

Read the full op-ed article here. (New York Times, 08/02/07, paid subscription required)
Read more about how government misconduct has led to wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing.



Tags: Government Misconduct

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New book examines Duke lacrosse case and prosecutorial misconduct

Posted: September 4, 2007 1:16 pm

Until Proven Innocent, a new book by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson released today, examines the Duke University lacrosse case, in which three men were identified and charged in a rape, only for all charges to be dropped later due to evidence of their innocence. The prosecutor in the case, Michael Nifong, was disbarred and sentenced to one day in jail for his misconduct in the case.

Until Proven Innocent covers the Duke case and the broader problem of prosecutorial misconduct. Learn more about the book, and buy it online, at Amazon.com or read an excerpt on ABCNews.com.

Co-author Stuart Taylor, a National Journal columnist, appeared on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show on Thursday with Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck and Oregon prosecutor Joshua Marquis. Listen to the show here.



Tags: Government Misconduct

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Innocence Network calls on FBI to investigate agent

Posted: September 5, 2007 1:08 pm

In April, a federal jury found that former sheriff's deputy Danny Miller fabricated evidence that led to the wrongful conviction of Innocence Project client Herman Atkins. Miller now works for the FBI, and  the Innocence Network yesterday called for him to be suspended and investigated. Atkins served 11 years in prison before he was exonerated by DNA testing, and he was awarded $2 million in a federal civil suit in April.

This is the first time that the Innocence Network, a consortium of 31 innocence organizations around the country, has asked that a law enforcement officer be suspended or investigated. The letter was signed by Kathleen Ridolfi, executive director of the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University Law School.

Ridolfi's letter to the Justice Department said that "in light of these extraordinary developments," the Innocence Network was asking that Miller be the subject of a formal investigation, "which could result in the termination of his employment with the Bureau. Indeed, given the security and sensitivity of Miller's assignment, we urge you to consider suspending him pending the outcome of the investigation."

"We are confident that the FBI and the Department of Justice will conclude . . . that it is inconceivable that our nation's homeland security will rely on the intelligence analysis of a man found in a court of law to be a liar and an evidence fabricator," Ridolfi added.
 
Read the full news story. (Los Angeles Times, 09/05/07)
Read more about the Innocence Network and Herman Atkins’s case.

Watch a video of Atkins telling the story of his wrongful conviction



Tags: Herman Atkins, Government Misconduct

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DNA evidence clears two men in Mississippi and uncovers serious misconduct

Posted: February 8, 2008 4:25 pm

Innocence Project client Kennedy Brewer has waited more than 15 years – much of it on death row – for this day to come. DNA evidence proves that Brewer didn’t commit the heinous murder of a three-year-old girl for which he was sentenced to die in 1995, and he is expected to be exonerated at a hearing on Thursday (February 14).

The DNA evidence and other evidence uncovered by the Innocence Project and its partners also point to the identity of the real perpetrator of the murder, Justin Albert Johnson, who has confessed that he alone killed the little girl.

Johnson also confessed this week to killing another three-year-old girl in the same small Mississippi town eighteen months before the murder for which Brewer was convicted. The man convicted of this eerily similar crime, Levon Brooks, is also an Innocence Project client and is still in prison. The Innocence Project filed papers today seeking Brooks’ release. It’s possible that Brooks will also appear at Thursday’s hearing, where his conviction would be thrown out and he may be released.

These pending exonerations reveal startling misconduct in the Mississippi justice system, and the Innocence Project called for a review of the way evidence in the state is collected, analyzed and presented in court.

Read more in today’s Innocence Project press release
.

Press coverage of Brewer’s and Brooks’ cases:

New York Times: New suspect is arrested in two Mississippi killings (02/08/08)

Associated Press: New suspect charged in 1982 Miss. Murder (02/08/08)

Picayune Item: Future unclear for death row inmate after another charged with crime (02/08/08)




Tags: Mississippi, Kennedy Brewer, Government Misconduct, Death Penalty

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California case challenges prosecutorial immunity

Posted: April 14, 2008 1:15 pm

Prosecutors nationwide have traditionally been shielded from lawsuits brought by wrongfully convicted individuals. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that this immunity is necessary to ensure that prosecutors can do their jobs without fear of personal legal implication.

But last year, the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that supervising prosecutors could be liable if they failed to create a system that safeguarded against wrongful conviction. And now a lawsuit – brought by Thomas Goldstein, who served 24 years in prison before being released on evidence of his innocence – alleges that Los Angeles’ head prosecutor can be held liable for the use of a jailhouse informant in Goldstein’s case. The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will hear this case during its next term.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office, the nation's largest prosecution office, once made regular use of jail informants, but at the time it had no system for sharing information among prosecutors countywide about which informants were reliable and what they had been promised.

Goldstein was ordered released after 24 years in prison after the sole eyewitness recanted and doubts emerged about a supposed confession by Goldstein to an informant. Years after his conviction, Goldstein learned that his jailhouse accuser -- a three-time felon -- had lied in court when he denied having received promises of special treatment from another county prosecutor in exchange for his testimony.

"This suit is 29 years in the making, and it's about accountability," said Goldstein. "[It] will put every prosecutor's office on notice that they need a system for sharing information. And by doing so, it will result in fewer wrongful convictions."
The lawsuit names John Van de Kamp, Los Angeles County’s chief prosecutor at the time of Goldstein’s conviction and now the chair of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, one of the country’s most active innocence commissions.
...Van de Kamp sees a note of irony in the situation. He is the chair of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, a group set up to prevent wrongful convictions. It has pressed for a law that would require corroboration before testimony from a jailhouse informant could be used in a criminal trial.

The Legislature approved such a bill last year, but it in October Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it. He called the measure "unnecessary" because this "perceived problem . . . arises in very few criminal cases."

Read the full article here. (LA Times, 04/13/08)
Read more about the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice.





Tags: Informants/Snitches, Government Misconduct

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Ex-prosecutors reprimanded in Colorado case

Posted: September 15, 2008 12:55 pm

The Colorado Supreme Court has censured two former prosecutors for their role in the wrongful conviction of Timothy Masters in Fort Collins in 1999. Terrance A. Gilmore and Jolene C. Blair, both now judges in Colorado, were reprimanded by the Supreme Court for failing to ensure that defense attorneys received evidence that could have pointed to Masters’ innocence. They have acknowledged that they didn’t disclose the information.

Masters served nearly a decade in prison for a 1987 murder before DNA tests and other evidence pointing to his innocence led to his release in January. His trial attorney, Erik Fischer, said the prosecutors could have prevented his wrongful conviction by handing over the complete evidence at trial.

"If we would have had the evidence that was withheld from us, there's no doubt in my mind that Tim Masters would have been exonerated at the trial," Fischer said.

… "I don't know what to say about that," Masters said of the decision when reached by phone by The Associated Press. "I spent 10 years in prison for something I didn't do. It's something, I guess."

Read the full story here. (Associated Press, 09/10/08)
Read more about Masters’ case on the Denver Post website.





Tags: Government Misconduct, Timothy Masters

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Innocence Network urges U.S. Supreme Court to maintain safeguards against prosecutorial misconduct

Posted: September 16, 2008 3:18 pm

In a new Supreme Court brief, the Innocence Network is arguing that top-level prosecutors must be held accountable when they set policies that ignore or violate people’s rights and lead to wrongful convictions. False testimony from a jailhouse informant was central in the 1980 murder conviction of Thomas Goldstein, who is suing the former Los Angeles County District Attorney because the office had no safeguards in place at the time of Goldstein’s conviction to prevent snitches from testifying falsely.

Read today’s Innocence Project press release on the Innocence Network’s friend-of-the-court brief in the Goldstein case and download the full brief.

Also today, the Texas criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast focuses today on the difficulty to prove innocence in non-DNA cases, especially those involving snitches and informants.

A situation involving a mendacious jailhouse snitch out of Orange, Texas shows how such cases play out when DNA evidence doesn't exist to prove innocence to a certainty. KPRC-Channel 2 in Houston recently told the story of Daniel Meehan (Sept. 4) whose 1998 conviction and 99-year sentence was based in part on testimony by an informant who now says he lied to get his own cases dismissed and that prosecutors told him what to say.

Read the full Grits post here. (9/16/08)
A bill passed this year by the California legislature and currently awaiting Gov. Schwarzenegger’s signature would require corroboration of jailhouse snitch testimony. Send Schwarzenegger an email today urging him to sign the bill and prevent wrongful convictions in his state.

More resources:

The Snitch System” – a report by the Center on Wrongful Convictions in Chicago.

Learn more about the role of snitch testimony in wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing.




Tags: California, Informants/Snitches, Government Misconduct

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Former Chicago cop arrested for involvement in torture

Posted: October 21, 2008 4:45 pm

Former Chicago Police detective Jon Burge was arrested this morning on charges that he lied under oath about his participation in the torturing of suspects in criminal investigations. Burge, who was fired in 1993 for his alleged role in the torture and beatings of suspects, was arrested at his Florida home and charged in federal court with perjury and obstruction of justice.

Last year, Chicago settled a civil suit with four defendants who were freed from death row after showing evidence that they falsely confessed under torture by Burge and other officers. Burge, when questioned in that case, said: "I have not observed nor do I have knowledge of any other examples of physical abuse and/or torture on the part of Chicago police officers at Area 2."

But a report by two special prosecutors in 2006 found that officers under Burge’s watch had tortured dozens of suspects, by beating, hitting, kicking and asphyxiating them.

"There is no place for torture and abuse in a police station," said U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald in a news release. "There is no place for perjury and false statements in federal lawsuits. No person is above the law, and nobody--even a suspected murderer--is beneath its protection."

Read the full story here. (Chicago Tribune, 10/21/2008)
Background on the case: Jon Burge’s legacy (Chicago Tribune) 

Download the indictment here.




Tags: Government Misconduct

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U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Lawsuit by Freed California Man

Posted: January 29, 2009 5:46 pm

Thomas Goldstein served 24 years in California prison before a federal appeals court ruling in 2004 found that he had been wrongfully convicted and led to his release. His 1979 murder conviction was based largely on testimony of a jailhouse snitch, who said he had not received anything for his testimony – a claim which was later revealed to be untrue.

After being freed, Goldstein sued former Los Angeles District Attorney John Van de Kamp, seeking to hold the prosecutor liable for not having procedures in place to track testimony from unreliable snitches. In 2008, Goldstein’s case went before the U.S. Supreme Court, which considered whether office policies created by Van de Kamp were protected by prosecutorial immunity. Individual prosecutors have absolute immunity from lawsuits seeking to hold them accountable for their trial-related “adversarial” conduct but not for “investigative” or “administrative” actions.

In a unanimous decision this week, the court found that Van de Kamp could not sue in this instance.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the opinion that immunity covered claims about a failure to train or supervise prosecutors or to set up an information system with material that calls into question the truthfulness of informants.
Breyer said allowing the lawsuit to go forward would permit criminal defendants to bring claims for other trial-related training or supervisory failings, affecting the way in which prosecutors carried out their basic courtroom tasks.
Read the full story here. (Reuters, 01/26/09)
Before the case was argued, the Innocence Network filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court, arguing that Van de Kamp’s role in this case was administrative, not trial-related. The Supreme Court disagreed.

Download the Innocence Network amicus brief here.

View other amicus briefs and read commentary on the decision at the SCOTUS blog.





Tags: Informants/Snitches, Government Misconduct

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Ted Stevens and Prosecutorial Misconduct

Posted: April 3, 2009 2:48 pm

An op-ed in today’s New York Times examines the alleged prosecutorial misconduct in the case against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and asserts that the problem of prosecutorial misconduct is widespread – and unnoticed – in the U.S.

In the piece, “Prosecutors Gone Wild,” former New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer writes that prosecutors have overstepped their role in countless cases across the country, seeking convictions rather than justice. The U.S. government was right in seeking to dismiss charges against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, he writes, but the Stevens case “did not occur in a vacuum.”

Prosecutorial misconduct takes many forms, from failing to disclose critical evidence to disclosing information illegally to the press to overreaching in the exercise of the prosecutor’s discretion. Underlying all of them is a frightening misconception of the role of the prosecutor.

That role is not to seek the maximum penalty at every turn, nor to put together an impressive statistical tally of convictions. It is not to use the emotional pain and personal ruin involved on all sides of a criminal case to advance one’s own career or personal agenda. Prosecutors do not even share the duty defense lawyers have of providing zealous representation. The prosecutor’s only duty is to seek justice. Period.

This duty is especially important in an age like ours, when the integrity of the criminal justice process is so frequently called into question. Read the full article here. (The New York Times 04/03/09)
Prosecutorial misconduct has played a role in many of the 235 wrongful convictions later overturned through DNA testing, through a range of misconduct including hiding exculpatory evidence or exaggerating the value of evidence.
 
In the case of Curtis McCarty in Oklahoma, prosecutors intentionally misled jurors and relied on falsified forensic evidence to convict an innocent man of murder, leading to a death sentence. McCarty was exonerated in 2007 after serving 21 years in prison – including 19 on death row.

Prosecutors also committed misconduct in the case of Bruce Godschalk, who spent more than 14 years in Pennsylvania prison for a rape he didn’t commit. When the Innocence Project requested DNA testing after Godschalk had served 13 years in prison, prosecutors said they had secretly sent the evidence for testing and received an inconclusive result. Additionally, they said the tests had destroyed the evidence. A missing piece of evidence would then later mysteriously surface, and DNA testing freed Godschalk.
 
These cases – and others like them – are proof that when prosecutorial misconduct occurs, justice cannot.



Tags: Bruce Godschalk, Curtis McCarty, Government Misconduct

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Deadline Extended: Help Us Pay for DNA Testing

Posted: September 24, 2009 2:05 pm

We have been honored and moved by the strong interest in our campaign this month to raise funds for client DNA testing. We deeply appreciate the generosity of hundreds of people from all over the world who have given so far this month. It is thanks to your support that we are able to free the innocent.

We have just $5,470 to go in order to reach our goal of $25,000 and we think we can make it. That’s why we extended the deadline to September 30. For one more week, you can donate here and 100% of your gift will go to support DNA testing.

Spreading the word about this work is critical as well - click here to post this campaign to Facebook and here to post on Twitter.

Thank you from all of us at the Innocence Project.



Tags: False Confessions, Unvalidated/Improper Forensics, Informants/Snitches, Bad Lawyering, Government Misconduct, Eyewitness Misidentification

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Dallas Man Released After 14 Years

Posted: October 13, 2009 6:00 pm

Richard Miles was arrested and convicted of murder and attempted murder in 1995 and, after 14 years behind bars, has been released after the court ruled that police failed to alert both the prosecution and defense to a phone call implicating a different suspect before trial.

With help from Centurion Ministries, Miles had his conviction overturned on October 13; the prosecution has not announced whether or not they will pursue a new trial against Miles:

The DA's office said that it will continue to investigate the case but that the new information makes it question Miles' guilt. Prosecutors are also trying to determine whether charges can be brought against anyone else.

[State District Judge Andy] Chatham told Miles as he stood before the judge's bench that he could not guarantee anything, but it appeared that his convictions would be overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals. Chatham released Miles on his own recognizance, meaning Miles did not have to pay bail.

Read the report here. (Dallas Morning News, 10/13/09)
   
Judge Chatham was swayed by the fact that officers failed to properly investigate the phone call from a woman telling officers that her ex-boyfriend confessed to the crime. Critics of Miles’ original conviction argue that there were other examples of misconduct: several witnesses told investigating officers that Miles was not the gunman, and although Miles tested positive for low levels of gunpowder residue, he had been tested after he had already been handcuffed. In addition, there was no serological evidence introduced.

 



Tags: Texas, Government Misconduct

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Wrongful Convictions and Prosecutorial Immunity

Posted: November 4, 2009 5:42 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning in a case centered on wrongful convictions and the issue of whether prosecutors are protected by absolute immunity, even when their misconduct extends beyond the courtroom.

Two men filed a civil rights lawsuit against Iowa prosecutors who allegedly coerced false testimony and fabricated evidence to convict them of crimes they say they didn't commit. Prosecutors in the case have claimed that they are protected by absolute immunity, and have stated outright that there is no constitutional "right not to be framed.”

During arguments, Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern about creating a “chilling effect on prosecutors” by allowing them to be sued. Justice John Paul Stevens, however, said it was “perverse” that a prosecutor can be sued if he or she fabricates evidence and then hands it to another prosecutor to conduct a trial, but can’t be sued if he or she completes that trial. He wasn’t the only justice to raise concerns:

"So the law is the more deeply you're involved in the wrong, the more likely you are to be immune? That's a strange proposition," Justice Anthony Kennedy said.
The case comes to the Supreme Court following a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which found that the men could sue because they had presented evidence that the prosecutors in the case had violated their right to due process. In reviewing the Eighth Circuit decision, the Supreme Court is essentially considering the extent of prosecutorial immunity under historical precedent and the Constitution.

The two men at the center of the case, Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee, served 25 years in prison for a murder they’ve always said they didn’t commit. On appeal, the men discovered records showing that prosecutors had coerced a witness to testify against them and that police and prosecutors had withheld evidence pointing to another suspect. They were freed this year.

One argument raised by the prosecutors is that allowing these men to sue will open floodgates for prisoners to allege misconduct by prosecutors. Attorneys for Harrington and McGhee argue that this case is so egregious that it would meet even a strict standard under which defendants could sue prosecutors.

In an editorial this morning, the Washington Post agrees:
The vast majority of prosecutors perform honorably and understand that they are duty-bound not just to secure convictions but to seek justice. Those who don't often suffer no consequences at the hands of state or bar organizations, as a brief in support of Mr. McGhee and Mr. Harrington convincingly argues. For these few renegades, perhaps the prospect of being held liable will help to keep them in line or, at least, hold them accountable.  
News coverage of the case, Pottawattamie County v. McGhee:

Associated Press: Court Worries About Stifling Prosecutors

NPR Morning Edition: Can Prosecutors Be Sued by the People They Framed?

Washington Post Editorial: The Right Not to Be Framed

Analaysis of the Case by SCOTUSblog

Transcript of today’s oral arguments.

Briefs and filings in the case at SCOTUSwiki.





Tags: Government Misconduct

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Ten Great Moments of the Decade

Posted: December 30, 2009 11:00 am



It goes without saying that DNA testing and the issues surrounding wrongful convictions have left their mark on the criminal justice system in the last ten years. When the decade began, DNA testing had been used in American courtrooms for more than 11 years, but exonerations were still fairly rare.

In the last ten years, 182 people have been exonerated through DNA testing and states have passed dozens of laws addressing the causes of wrongful convictions. Yet there is plenty of work to do — countless innocent people remain behind bars as we pass into 2010 and the threat of wrongful convictions in today’s courtrooms is still very real.

As we look forward to freeing more innocent people than ever in the decade ahead and enacting major reforms to prevent wrongful convictions, here is a list (in chronological order) of 10 seminal moments from the 2000s.

"Actual Innocence” is published (2000)— Written by Innocence Project Co-Directors Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, with Jim Dwyer,  this groundbreaking book examines the emergence of DNA testing and the causes of wrongful conviction it unveiled. During the decade, it became a blueprint for overturning wrongful convictions and reforming the criminal justice system.

Larry Mayes becomes the 100th Exoneree (2001) — Mayes spent 21 years in Indiana prisons before DNA testing obtained by the Innocence Project and the Innocence Project at the Indiana University School of Law proved his innocence and led to his release.

Illinois clears death row (2003) — Pointing clearly to the frightening rate of exonerations in his state (since 1977, 13 death row prisoners had been cleared while 12 had been executed), Gov. George Ryan granted blanket clemency to all 167 people on death row on January 10, 2003.

Congress passes the Justice for All Act (2004) — The JFAA is the most significant legislation to ever address wrongful convictions in the United States. It provides an avenue for federal prisoners to seek DNA testing and funds incentives for states to offer similar testing and to improve DNA testing capacity. It also provides compensation for federal exonerees.

 “After Innocence” premieres (2005) — An award-winning documentary chronicling the lives of seven men released from prison after serving years for crimes they didn’t commit, After Innocence brought  the issue of wrongful convictions to America’s movie theaters and living rooms. Watch a trailer here.

“The Innocent Man” published (2006) — John Grisham’s first non-fiction book tells the heartbreaking story of a murder in Oklahoma and an unimaginable injustice suffered by two innocent men. The book reached best-seller status around the world and a film version is in development. Following the book’s publication, John Grisham joined the Innocence Project’s board of directors. Several other excellent books also chronicled wrongful conviction cases during the decade, check back tomorrow for the decade's must read list.

Jerry Miller becomes the 200th Exoneree (2007) — It took 12 years to exonerate the first 100 people through DNA testing. It was just seven years later that Innocence Project client Jerry Miller became the 200th person exonerated through DNA. He served 25 years in Illinois prisons before he was cleared.

Dennis Fritz and Peggy Carter Sanders Dance on Stage (2008) — the history of criminal justice in the United States is filled with poignant moments of injustice overturned, from tear-filled homecomings to stirring speeches and courtroom victories. One of the most memorable is the moment Dennis Fritz, who was exonerated after 11 years in prison for an Oklahoma murder he didn’t commit, unexpectedly danced onstage with the mother of the murder victim at a New York event. Watch this touching moment on video here.

50th Member Joins the Innocence Network (2008) — the Innocence Network is an international affiliation of groups working to overturn wrongful convictions. As the field has broadened over the last 10 years, more organizations have been created to meet the growing need for pro bono legal services and advocacy. In 2008, the Innocence Network reached a membership of 50 organizations, today there are 54.

National Academy of Sciences releases forensic report (2009) — Faulty forensic evidence played a role in more than half of the wrongful convictions later overturned through DNA testing. Many forensic techniques used in courtrooms today have never been subjected to rigorous scientific evaluation. In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences released a landmark report calling for the U.S. federal government to create a federal entity to oversee and support the forensic disciplines. Learn more here.

Photo: Innocence Project client Luis Diaz was exonerated in Florida in 2005 after 25 years in prison for a series of crimes he didn't commit. Courtesy South Florida Sun Sentinel.



Tags: Innocence Commissions, Exoneree Compensation, False Confessions, Eyewitness Identification, Forensic Oversight, Evidence Preservation, Access to DNA Testing, False Confessions, Unvalidated/Improper Forensics, Informants/Snitches, Bad Lawyering, Government Misconduct, Eyewitness Misidentification

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Supreme Court Dismisses Prosecutorial Misconduct Case

Posted: January 5, 2010 4:22 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a case on the limits of prosecutorial immunity yesterday after two wrongfully convicted defendants announced that they had settled their lawsuit against Iowa prosecutors.

Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee spent 26 years in Iowa prisons for a murder evidence shows they didn’t commit before they were freed in 2003. They were suing prosecutors in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, for allegedly coercing false testimony and fabricating evidence to convict them.

The Supreme Court was considering whether the prosecutors should be immune from civil lawsuits, but dismissed the case yesterday after the two parties announced a $12 million settlement.

Read more:

Christian Science Monitor: Supreme Court Drops Key Case on Limits of Immunity for Prosecutors

LA Times: Prosecutor Conduct Case Before Supreme Court is Settled

Previous coverage of this case on the Innocence Blog





Tags: Government Misconduct

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Taking Aim at the Causes of Injustice in New York

Posted: January 28, 2010 6:14 pm

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said yesterday that his office is taking steps to prevent wrongful convictions before they happen.

Vance, who took office three weeks ago following former DA Robert Moganthau’s retirement after 35 years in the office, said he has already set up working groups to address the most common causes of wrongful convictions. He said he is working to address eyewitness misidentifications and forensic problems, and that he had formed a prosecution integrity panel "to make sure we follow best practices at the beginning of cases and in training."

Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck joined Vance on a panel yesterday at the New York Bar Association’s annual “President’s Summit.”

Read more here.



Tags: Government Misconduct, Eyewitness Misidentification

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New York Man is Cleared as Prosecutor Faces Misconduct Allegations

Posted: June 10, 2010 5:12 pm

“It is indeed beyond disappointing, it is really sad that the district attorney’s office persists in standing firm and saying that it did nothing wrong here,” the judge said. She described the handling of the case by the district attorney’s office as “shameful.”

Read more about the case in today’s New York Times.

The cases of wrongful convictions uncovered by DNA testing are replete with evidence of fraud or misconduct by prosecutors or police departments. Learn more about misconduct as a cause of wrongful conviction here.




Tags: Government Misconduct

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An Injustice Overturned

Posted: June 16, 2010 10:30 am

I agreed to represent Collins in 2005 after he showed me the remarkable evidence he had collected, and we brought a state collateral attack in 2006.  But the prosecutor, Michael Vecchione, the chief of the Office’s Rackets Division, swore that no witness had to be pressured to testify, no one had recanted, and no Brady material had been withheld. The motion was denied without a hearing, and permission to appeal was denied.

Collins next appealed his conviction in federal court. We feared the appeal would die without a hearing, like most federal habeas corpus petitions do, but Judge Dora Irizarry appeared incensed at the D.A. when Collins, through yet another FOIL request, unearthed still more Brady material.  She ordered a hearing, at which one witness devastatingly testified that Vecchione had threatened to hit him over the head with a table and to keep him in prison for years if he did not testify against Collins.

Remarkably, to avoid further hearings, the DA’s office agreed to an order vacating Collins’s conviction and prohibiting any retrial.  Collins went free.  While D.A. Charles Hynes immediately proclaimed that Vecchione had done nothing wrong and there would be no internal investigation, there will be a lawsuit.  Vecchione’s misconduct, and the Office’s knowing toleration of it, will be fully exposed.  Such lawsuits are essential considering the attitude of the D.A. defending his underlings no matter what they do.

Read more about Collins’ case in the New York Times.



Tags: Government Misconduct

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Report Finds Serious Flaws in NC Crime Labs

Posted: August 17, 2010 3:35 pm

The News & Observer series also found that SBI agents have concealed test results and ignored key evidence of innocence. As a result, defense attorneys in North Carolina often hire their own experts to examine evidence.

Since the series was published
, Attorney General Roy Cooper removed the SBI director, hired an outside auditor and suspended all bloodstain pattern analysis work. A state legislator is calling for the creation of an independent crime lab.


"Everybody ought to understand that this is something that needs to be fixed," said State Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat who heads the powerful budget committee.

To date, seven people have been exonerated in North Carolina through post-conviction DNA testing.

Read the four-part series here.

Read the Innocence Project’s recommendations for forensic oversight and independent forensic labs.



Tags: Forensic Oversight, Government Misconduct

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New Report: Prosecutorial Misconduct and Wrongful Convictions

Posted: August 25, 2010 2:16 pm

Among the findings in the new Innocence Project report are:

• Sixty-five of the first 255 DNA exoneration cases involved appeals and/or civil lawsuits alleging prosecutorial misconduct.

• In nearly half of those 65 cases, courts found prosecutorial misconduct or error.

• In 18% of the prosecutorial misconduct claims in wrongful conviction cases, courts overturned convictions or found harmful error – a rate nearly identical to harmful error findings in a larger study of misconduct allegations, including thousands of cases where defendants did not claim innocence.

• Improper argument at trial and withheld evidence of innocence were the forms of misconduct alleged most commonly by wrongfully convicted defendants.

Read the full report here. (PDF)




Tags: Government Misconduct

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USA TODAY Investigation Reveals Serious Misconduct by Justice Department Prosecutors

Posted: September 23, 2010 5:20 pm

In case after case during that time, judges blasted prosecutors for "flagrant" or "outrageous" misconduct. They caught some prosecutors hiding evidence, found others lying to judges and juries, and said others had broken plea bargains.

Such abuses, intentional or not, doubtless infect no more than a small fraction of the tens of thousands of criminal cases filed in the nation's federal courts each year. But the transgressions USA TODAY identified were so serious that, in each case, judges threw out charges, overturned convictions or rebuked prosecutors for misconduct. And each has the potential to tarnish the reputation of the prosecutors who do their jobs honorably.

Read the full article here.


There has been a major increase in the number of complaints judges have made about prosecutorial misconduct since 2001.  Back then, there were 42 complaints.  Last year, there were 61. Over the past 12 years, USA TODAY was only able to identify one federal prosecutor who was barred, even temporarily, from practicing law for such misconduct.

The investigation found 47 cases in which defendants were either exonerated or set free after the violations surfaced.

That is exactly what happened to Nino Lyons of Orlando, Florida.  The jurors who found Lyons guilty of drug trafficking after hearing testimony from multiple witnesses were never informed about vital evidence that could have pointed toward his innocence. 

According to USA TODAY, the federal prosecutors never informed the jury that a convict who claimed he purchased hundreds of pounds of cocaine from Lyons barely identified his photograph. Prosecutors also promised early release to other prisoners in exchange for their cooperation. Lyons spent nearly three years in prison before his case was thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct.

As a result of prosecutorial misconduct, guilty people remain at large or face a lesser consequence and taxpayers ultimately finance the unethical behavior of the Justice Department.

Learn about government and prosecutorial misconduct here
.

Read the Innocence Project’s report on prosecutorial misconduct and wrongful convictions here.



Tags: Government Misconduct

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Report: Prosecutorial Misconduct Often Unpunished in California

Posted: October 5, 2010 6:32 pm

The misconduct covered in the report ranged from failing to turn over evidence to presenting false evidence in court.  As a response to their research, the Northern California Innocence Project is calling for legal reforms requiring courts to report all findings of misconduct to the state bar, which they currently are not required to do.  When a court decides the misconduct was harmless, those cases often go unreported.

Read the full article.

Read Preventable Error: A Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct in California 1997–2009.

Read last month’s USA TODAY story on prosecutorial misconduct.

Learn about government misconduct and wrongful conviction.

Read the Innocence Project’s report on prosecutorial misconduct and wrongful conviction.




Tags: Government Misconduct

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Supreme Court Hears Prosecutorial Misconduct Case

Posted: October 6, 2010 5:55 pm

The Associated Press reported today that the justices seemed skeptical about Thompson’s claims  that prosecutors should be held liable for not training prosecutors  on their legal obligation to turn over evidence pointing to innocence.

Read the transcript of today’s oral arguments.

Read the more about Thompson’s case
.

Read the full story from Mother Jones
.

Read today’s Associated Press report.




Tags: Government Misconduct

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California State Bar Association Reacts to Prosecutorial Misconduct Report

Posted: October 19, 2010 5:20 pm

According to the report, attorneys are required to report any harmful error judgments against them to the State
Bar and can be disciplined for failing to do so.

The study pushes for reforming the criminal justice system, including providing additional ethics training for
prosecutors.

Read the full article.

Read Preventable Error: A Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct in California 1997-2009.

Learn about government misconduct and wrongful conviction.




Tags: Government Misconduct

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Prosecutorial Misconduct Plagues Illinois

Posted: November 8, 2010 7:10 pm

Six years after Strong's conviction, police identified the victim as a developmentally disabled woman who was married to an institutionalized violent schizophrenic.  Her husband admitted to the murder. Regardless of the identification and confession, prosecutors failed to re-open the case. Robinson wrote:

Mermel has argued that taxpayers pay for convictions, not for "intellectual curiosity," but he has it dead wrong.
. . .

Too many prosecutors seem robotically opposed to reassessing whether they charged the right culprit, regardless of new information pointing to innocence.

Robinson urges the Illinois Supreme Court to amend the Rules of Professional Conduct to underscore that the prosecution's duty to seek justice can remain long after a conviction if new evidence of innocence is discovered.


Read the full article.

Read about government misconduct and wrongful convictions



Tags: Government Misconduct

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Prosecutorial Misconduct Doesn't Always Result in Termination

Posted: December 10, 2010 4:29 pm

Almost two years after a baby girl near Tampa vanished, federal prosecutors charged her parents with conspiracy and lying to investigators. The prosecuting attorney told the grand jury that there were recordings of the girl’s mother telling her husband: "The baby's dead and buried. … The baby's dead no matter what you say — you just did it." But, everyone who heard the recordings quickly concluded that those statements were never uttered.

Although charges were dropped against the missing girl’s parents and a Justice Department investigation concluded that the prosecutor broke rules and mishandled the case, he was allowed to continue with the agency to work on civil cases. He ultimately quit and relocated to Tallahassee where he works as a defense attorney.

Department records found during the newspaper’s investigation suggest that similar mistakes usually result in a slap on the wrist and leave attorneys’ records untarnished. Since the Justice Department can conceal its own prosecutorial misconduct investigations from the public, it’s hard to know the full extent of the problem.

The Office of Professional Responsibility is tasked with investigating findings of prosecutorial misconduct, but most of its investigations have resulted in no punishment, with the agency concluding that misconduct was unintentional. And even when OPR learns of prosecutorial misconduct in a case, it doesn’t necessarily look into the prosecutor’s other cases to determine if it’s a one-time occurrence or if there is a precedent for misconduct.


"Government lawyers are likely to view the conduct most favorably to other government lawyers," says Ellen Yaroshefsky, the head of Cardozo Law School's Jacob Burns Ethics Center in New York. She said an outside watchdog is needed. "It's human nature that you're going to give the person the benefit of the doubt, because it could be you next. There just needs to be an independent evaluation of allegations of misconduct."

Without stronger safeguards, this pattern of prosecutorial misconduct without consequences will continue.

Read the full article.

Last night, Innocence Project Co-founder Barry Scheck appeared on CNN’s “AC360” to discuss prosecutorial misconduct. Watch the full segment.

Read about government misconduct and the Innocence Project’s report on prosecutorial misconduct.



Tags: Government Misconduct

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Friday Roundup: Misconduct, Compensation and the Death Penalty

Posted: January 21, 2011 5:24 pm

Illinois governor Pat Quinn wants to hear from constituents before deciding whether or not to approve a bill abolishing the death penalty. 

A federal judge today sentenced former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge to 4.5 years in prison for perjury relating to his role in the torture of suspects during his 23 years on the force. Several people who were convicted based on confessions coerced  under Burge’s watch have since been cleared.

Paul Hildwin, a Florida death row prisoner, is seeking to have DNA evidence in his case compared to state and federal databases for possible evidence of a different perpetrator. The Innocence Project has consulted on Hildwin’s case for seven years.




Tags: Steven Barnes, Government Misconduct, Death Penalty

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Supreme Court to Hear Prosecutorial Misconduct Case

Posted: November 1, 2011 11:16 am





Tags: Government Misconduct

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Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Prosecutorial Misconduct

Posted: November 8, 2011 5:55 pm





Tags: Government Misconduct

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Analysis of the Supreme Court’s View on Prosecutorial Misconduct

Posted: November 9, 2011 4:27 pm





Tags: Government Misconduct

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New York Times: Make Prosecutors Accountable for Misconduct

Posted: December 29, 2011 10:30 am





Tags: Government Misconduct

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Prosecutorial Oversight: John Thompson and His Fight for Justice

Posted: February 8, 2012 4:00 pm





Tags: Louisiana, Government Misconduct

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Prosecutorial Oversight: Ted Stevens Case Moves Dialog Forward

Posted: March 19, 2012 4:45 pm





Tags: Government Misconduct

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60 Minutes Features Innocence Project Client Michael Morton

Posted: March 26, 2012 5:50 pm





Tags: Texas, Government Misconduct, Michael Morton

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Texas Prosecutors Who Engage in Misconduct Go Undisciplined

Posted: April 5, 2012 5:30 pm





Tags: Texas, Government Misconduct, Michael Morton

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Attorneys Work to Hold Orleans Parish Prosecutors Accountable

Posted: April 19, 2012 5:30 pm





Tags: Louisiana, Government Misconduct

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Errant Prosecutors Seldom Held to Account

Posted: May 7, 2012 2:00 pm





Tags: Texas, Government Misconduct, Michael Morton

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San Antonio Express-News Joins Prosecutorial Misconduct Dialogue

Posted: September 19, 2012 5:35 pm

An editorial in Tuesday’s San Antonio Express-News welcomes the public discussion over wrongful prosecution in Texas criminal cases that heated up last week when the Texas District and County Attorney Association issued a report on prosecutorial misconduct that mischaracterized data released by the Prosecutorial Oversight Coalition (that includes the Innocence Project).
 
The Prosecutorial Oversight Coalition released data about 91 court findings of prosecutorial misconduct between 2004 – 2008 in Texas in advance of a forum in Austin on the issue in March 2012. When releasing the data, the coalition acknowledged that the data was not a final report and cautioned that the lack of transparency and accountability on the issue made it extremely difficult to provide data fully illustrating the problem. The purpose of the forum was to spark a conversation with prosecutors and other policymakers about the role of prosecutorial misconduct in wrongful convictions and systemic solutions to the problem.
 
The San Antonio Express-News writes:


Recent high-profile cases involving Texas death row inmates have focused much-needed attention on the way the state's criminal justice system operates.
 
If prosecutors feel defensive and feel as if they are under attack, that's understandable. But no one is saying there has been widespread or rampant intentional prosecutorial misconduct over the years.
 
A close look at the Innocence Project data indicates courts made 91 findings of error during the five-year review period. The findings were deemed harmless in 72 of those cases.
 
Considering the high number of criminal cases that go through the criminal justice system each year, that is a relatively low number, but even one case in which one defendant has been wrongfully convicted based on a prosecutor's conduct is one too many.
 
While it is easy to become defensive and downplay the merits of adverse findings, we are encouraged to see acknowledgment of past problems and steps being taken to correct them.
 
There are many lessons to be learned to keep history from repeating itself.

Read the full editorial.
 
Read the Innocence Project’s press release responding to “Setting the Record Straight on Prosecutorial Misconduct.”



Tags: Texas, Government Misconduct

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Court of Inquiry Begins Today in Morton Case

Posted: February 4, 2013 1:25 pm





Tags: Texas, Government Misconduct, Michael Morton

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ProPublica Investigates Prosecutorial Misconduct in New York

Posted: April 3, 2013 4:15 pm





Tags: New York, Government Misconduct

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Michael Morton's Prosecutor Will Face Criminal Charges for Withholding Evidence

Posted: April 19, 2013 5:00 pm





Tags: Texas, Government Misconduct, Michael Morton

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60 Minutes Features Michael Morton

Posted: June 24, 2013 5:00 pm





Tags: Texas, Government Misconduct, Michael Morton

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ProPublica Questions Prosecutorial Accountability in Brooklyn Murder Case Review

Posted: June 25, 2013 2:15 pm





Tags: New York, Government Misconduct

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Texas State Bar Association Seeks to Discipline Michael Morton's Prosecutor

Posted: September 3, 2013 2:00 pm





Tags: Texas, Government Misconduct, Michael Morton

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U.S. Court of Appeals Says Prosecutor is not Protected by Immunity

Posted: January 31, 2014 11:50 pm





Tags: Illinois, Government Misconduct

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Wisconsin Man Says Police Misconduct Resulted in Wrongful Conviction

Posted: April 30, 2014 5:00 pm





Tags: Wisconsin, Government Misconduct

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Three Men to be Exonerated in Scarcella Review

Posted: May 6, 2014 5:45 pm





Tags: New York, Government Misconduct

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Texas Exoneree Says Hold Prosecutors Accountable

Posted: August 22, 2014 12:50 pm





Tags: Texas, Government Misconduct, Michael Morton, Cameron Todd Willingham

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How to Curb Brady Violations

Posted: September 4, 2014 6:00 pm





Tags: Bad Lawyering, Government Misconduct

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Exoneree Jeff Deskovic on Rash of Recent Exonerations

Posted: December 11, 2014 3:00 pm





Tags: Jeff Deskovic, Unvalidated/Improper Forensics, Government Misconduct

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