Innocence Deniers: Prosecutors who “refuse to correct life-altering errors”

By Innocence Staff

In an article published yesterday in Slate, law professor and writer Lara Bazelon explores the misguided and distressing actions—and the ensuing impact—of a select group of state prosecutors whom she deems as “innocence deniers”—prosecutors that don’t simply “hinder justice,” she writes, but whom intentionally impede it. The purpose of the article is not so much to simply expose the poor judgement of these particular prosecutors; it is also to ask why some prosecutors neglect the ultimate responsibility of their role as defined by the Supreme Court, to be “servant[s] of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer.”

According to Bazelon, prosecutors are innocence deniers if they “delay justice and in some cases actively work against it.” For example, “When a prisoner is exonerated by a lower court,” innocence deniers, she writes:

double and triple down, filing appeal after appeal. Or they indict and prosecute the exoneree all over again, sometimes under a wildly different theory at the expense of time and resources that should be used to pursue the crime’s actual perpetrator. They may also threaten endless legal challenges to wring “no contest” pleas from innocent prisoners in exchange for time-served sentences. The prisoners, desperate to be free, accept these Faustian bargains, which brand them convicts for life and allow prosecutors to proclaim their guilt and the state to deny them compensation. Some prosecutors are so committed to adhering to the original mistake that they fail to prosecute the actual perpetrators, even when there is evidence to convict them.

Bazelon points to nearly 20 prosecutors who have carried out such actions and, in spite of exceptionally compelling evidence proving otherwise, continue to not believe that “wrongfully convicted people are in fact innocent.” While some of these cases may indeed sound like extreme or rare instances of injustice, Bazelon emphasizes that the prosecutors in these cases are in good company. In fact, according to University of Michigan Law professor Samuel Gross, co-founder of the National Registry of Exonerations, “there are a lot of these cases. . . We see them all the time.”

In conclusion, Bazelon writes: “By some estimates there are tens of thousands more wrongfully convicted prisoners languishing behind bars. Nevertheless, some prosecutors—the most powerful actors in the criminal justice system—refuse to correct life-altering errors.  . . . If we are committed to fostering a justice system that is truly just, it is imperative to call out these innocence deniers and hold them to account.”



  1. David majkowski

    “What the Slate story doesn’t mention is Worthy’s almost irrational crusade to keep Richard Wershe Jr., aka “White Boy Rick,” behind bars for life. Wershe was sentenced to life in prison as a teenager in the late 1980s for cocaine trafficking. He was guilty of that crime, and deserved to serve some time. No question. But he also cooperated with law enforcement authorities on major cases both before he went to prison and while he was behind bars. For perspective: Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, the underboss of the Gambino Crime Family in New York, confessed to playing a role in 19 murders and was sentenced to five years in prison in exchange for his cooperation against the mob.

    Worthy opposed his parole at every turn, portraying him as a danger to society and falsely making him out to be a dangerous drug lord like the late Pablo Escobar. He was hardly that. FBI agents and federal prosecutors, who were familiar with his extremely helpful cooperation in big cases, pushed for his parole, but to no avail.

    Finally, last year, Worthy agreed not to oppose his parole. In July, after nearly 30 years behind bars, the Michigan Parole Board voted to release him from prison.

    Problem is, Wershe had another conviction in Florida, while he was behind bars there, living under the witness protection program. He was charged in a car theft ring.

    Worthy made it clear to Florida authorities, according to reports, that they should come down hard on Wershe, who got sentenced to five years.

    After his release from Michigan, Wershe was taken to Florida where is serving out that sentence, minus good time and possibly other considerations. Worthy had no interest in intervening there and helping right an injustice she perpetuated for many years here in Detroit.”

  2. Michelle Goldsmith

    Yess indeed That’s what The prosocuter here in cedar rapids Iowa Is doing to my son She knows that he had nothing to do with this case That he’s in and yet she still hasn’t disclosed any evidence that could possibly help Him where the Brady law Is concerned! these people are just Dead set on sending A innocent man to prison away from his new baby Who’s coming into the world and away from his family!!

  3. Denise Warfield

    The time has come for prosecutors who want a win, or want to fulfill sadistic desires to go to jail for their malissious actions. They are paid to preserve justice, not their own mental illnesses

  4. Louis Smith

    My father was in carcerated. For sexual battery charge I hope Christmas time in 93 on a charge he did not do can they can this program help he has tried to get ahold to you he have not had a response they found no DNA or anything in the area he has been locked up for 25 years

  5. Thomas Mininger

    These prosecutors are adhering to their natural order where science and objective evidence have no meaning to them. To them, order is power.

  6. JD Leete

    Sometimes the courts will come up with their own theory of a crime and contradict the prosectors just to make a wrongful conviction stand. That is what happened in this case, where the murderer admits to framing his best friend out of spite. But the Commonwealth of Virginia does not want to admit to any wrongdoing.

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