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Government Misconduct

Some wrongful convictions are caused by honest mistakes. But in far too many cases, the very people who are responsible for ensuring truth and justice — law enforcement officials and prosecutors — lose sight of these obligations and instead focus solely on securing convictions.

The cases of wrongful convictions uncovered by DNA testing are filled with evidence of negligence, fraud or misconduct by prosecutors or police departments.






While many law enforcement officers and prosecutors are honest and trustworthy, criminal justice is a human endeavor and the possibility for negligence, misconduct and corruption exists. Even if one officer of every thousand is dishonest, wrongful convictions will continue to occur.

DNA exonerations have exposed official misconduct at every level and stage of a criminal investigation.
 
Common forms of misconduct by law enforcement officials include:

•    Employing suggestion when conducting  identification procedures
•    Coercing false confessions
•    Lying or intentionally misleading jurors about their observations
•    Failing to turn over exculpatory evidence to prosecutors
•    Providing incentives to secure unreliable evidence from informants

Common forms of misconduct by prosecutors include:

•    Withholding exculpatory evidence from defense
•    Deliberately mishandling, mistreating or destroying evidence
•    Allowing witnesses they know or should know are not truthful to testify
•    Pressuring defense witnesses not to testify
•    Relying on fraudulent forensic experts
•    Making misleading arguments that overstate the probative value of testimony 

For more background on this issue, download the Northern California Innocence Project report on prosecutorial misconduct.


Necessary Oversight
We need to find solutions to fix these problems. One way to put checks on the enormous power of prosecutors and law enforcement officials would be to establish criminal justice reform commissions.

 

Featured Case: Bruce Godschalk

In some cases, fraud can be committed by officials long after a person is convicted. Bruce Godschalk was convicted of two rapes in Pennsylvania in 1987. The state’s evidence at trial included a false confession Godschalk allegedly gave to police, a misidentification by a victim, and testimony from a jailhouse snitch. When the Innocence Project tried to seek DNA testing on Godschalk’s behalf in 2001, the official misconduct continued. A state motion claimed that prosecutors had sent all relevant evidence to a lab without notifying the defendant or the Innocence Project. It falsely claimed that all evidence had been consumed in testing and all tests were inconclusive. A carpet sample with a semen stain was not given to the lab in the round of secret testing. When this piece of carpet surfaced, testing proved that another man had committed the crime for which Godschalk had been wrongly convicted.


Click here to read Godschalk’s full profile.



 

Mala práctica del Gobierno

Algunas condenas erróneas son causadas por errores cometidos de buena fe. Sin embargo, se dan casos en los que los agentes hacen movimientos para asegurar la condena de un acusado a pesar de que las pruebas en su contra son poco convincentes o incluso demuestran su inocencia.

Los casos de condena por error que posteriormente han sido descubiertas gracias a pruebas de ADN están llenas de muestras de fraude y negligencia por parte de la fiscalía o la policía.

Algunos malos agentes


La mayoría de los oficiales del orden y la acusación son honestos y merecen confianza. Pero el sistema judicial penal es una red humana y las posibilidades de corrupción existen. Incluso cuando solo un policía entre mil sea deshonesto, las condenas por error seguirán teniendo lugar.

Las exoneraciones mediante pruebas de ADN han demostrado mala práctica oficial en todos los niveles y fases de una investigación criminal. Los casos de mala práctica incluyen:



  • Subjetividad deliberada en los procesos de identificación

  • Ocultar pruebas a la defensa

  • La destrucción, manipulación o incorrecta utilización de pruebas

  • Coacción para la obtención de falsas confesiones

  • La utilización de informantes que no tienen credibilidad



Revisión necesaria

Se pueden establecer garantías para prevenir la mala práctica oficial que causa condenas por error. Lea nuestra sección Fix the System (Mejore el Sistema) con fórmulas para solucionar estos problemas y recomendaciones para establecer comisiones de reforma de la justicia penal.