Police and Prosecutorial Misconduct

Police and Prosecutorial 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 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. 
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 real life examples of this phenomenon, please read the stories of Dale Helmig, Ted White and Ellen Reasonover.

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