The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous... While the prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society, when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst.
- Former U.S. Attorney General Robert Jackson

   An Epidemic of Prosecutor Misconduct  is the title of just released report by the Center for Prosecutor Integrity. The report paints a grim picture emphasizing that today "the great majority of convictions are reached by means of a prosecutor-negotiated plea bargain - representing over 90% of all criminal cases" [1] and "2007 analysis of persons sentenced to death from 1973 to 2004 yielded a 2.3% exoneration rate" [2].

   Types of Misconduct

Quoting the Innocence Project the report lists various forms of prosecutor misconduct:
  • Charging a suspect with more offenses than is warranted
  • Withholding or delaying the release of exculpatory evidence
  • 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
  • During plea negotiations, overstating the strength of the evidence
  • Making statements to the media that are designed to arouse public indignation
  • Making improper or misleading statements to the jury
  • Failing to report prosecutor misconduct when it is discovered

According other studies quoted in the report "No one knows the exact extent of prosecutor misconduct. That's because many prosecutorial activities take place behind closed doors, rendering any misconduct difficult to detect. An inkling of the problem comes from the National Registry of Exonerations, which concluded 43% of wrongful convictions are attributable to official misconduct" [3]

   Consequences of Misconduct

It is hard even to begin estimating the damage done by prosecutorial misconduct not just because no one knows full scope of it, but because what price can we put on the lost and terribly damaged life of innocent people? Still here some numbers to get us some idea. Again the report quotes studies that shine some light on the consequences of the prosecutorial miscondudct:
  • In Texas, 45 wrongful convictions were estimated to cost taxpayers $8.6 million.
  • One analysis of 85 exonerations in Illinois found the wrongful convictions had imprisoned innocent people for 926 years and cost taxpayers $214 million.
  • A Department of Justice-funded study of post-rape conviction DNA analyses in Virginia found in 15% of convictions, the DNA of the prisoner and perpetrator did not match. Nationwide, 160,800 prisoners who were convicted for rape or other sexual assault are currently under state jurisdiction. Extrapolating the Virginia false conviction figure to a national sample, we conclude that 24,120 current inmates were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. The average state corrections expenditure per inmate is $28,323. This translates into an annual expenditure of $683 million.