In October of last year, Ohio Innocence Project Director and law professor Mark Godsey published a book, Blind Justice, which details his path from federal prosecutor to a leading figure within the innocence movement. The book has been praised by many critics for its unprecedented insight into the structural flaws and pressures of an adversarial justice system that contribute to wrongful convictions. Over the past week, numerous media outlets featured interviews with Godsey in which he spoke at length about the role that prosecutors play in wrongful convictions. Check out this article in the Nation. You can also read an excerpt from Godsey’s interview with Mike Papantonio, also a former prosecutor, here:
Mike Papantonio: Why would a prosecutor take it on themselves to say, “[I] know I’m going to convict somebody that I don’t have really good evidence against.” How does that happen? What’s the culture that allows that to happen?
Mark Godsey: Well I talk about that in the book because I used to be a prosecutor and so I’m one of the few people who are now an innocence lawyer who served for many years as a prosecutor. That’s why I wrote the book, I wanted to give that background to it. It becomes a very competitive environment where you’re in a prosecutor’s office and everybody’s judged on their win loss record and everybody wants to move up, everybody’s ambitious, everybody wants to do good just like in any job. So it becomes like a game about winning especially if it’s a case where people think you aren’t going to win because maybe the evidence of innocence is strong. If you can win that one, then you’ve pulled a rabbit out of a hat. So it’s even more credentials for you that you’re able to win this long shot case as a prosecutor.
The tougher the case is from the prosecutor’s perspective, the more it is, the better it is for them to win it. It just becomes this very competitive win at all costs game. The longer you in it, it becomes very self-serving, ambition plays into it, everybody wanted to get promoted. I lived that very much in my years as a prosecutor.
Mike Papantonio: Mark, I was a prosecutor too. . . . Don’t you think we have to affirmatively be involved in going after those people who choose to be a prosecutor where real justice can be done? We need to go after those people who choose to do just the opposite. What’s your take on that Mark?
Mark Godsey: . . . It needs to be cultural and attitudinal change from the leaders on down setting an example that we’re in this for the right reasons, it’s not about just wins and losses; it’s about justice. And then we to do a better job of making sure that people who overstep the bounds when they have power are actually punished for it.