Contact: Teri Stoddard
Prosecutor Bias and Misconduct are Widespread, Says SAVE Report
WASHINGTON / May 15 – A new report by Stop Abusive and Violent Environments highlights the problem of unethical conduct by prosecutors at the state and federal levels. “Prosecutor Bias and Misconduct in Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Cases” concludes a number of prosecutors have pursued overly zealous practices in sexual assault and domestic violence cases. Such practices erode constitutional guarantees of due process of law and probable cause.
Prosecutors are ethically required to evaluate allegations and only pursue those backed by probable cause. That’s because they wield the power of the state against the modest power of individuals who may be charged. Over the past two decades, prosecutors have often abandoned that role in favor of “win at any cost,” claims the new study.
That’s particularly true when the allegations involve sexual assault or domestic violence, according to the SAVE report.
Former sex-crimes prosecutor Rikki Klieman has noted, “Now people can be charged with virtually no evidence.” In the case of the Central Park Five, for example, five minors were coerced by prosecutors and police into pleading guilty to a crime they had no part in. The prosecutor obtained the confessions despite the absence of objective evidence connecting them to the crime.
The same is true in domestic violence cases.
Despite the fact that half of domestic violence is perpetrated by women, the vast majority of those arrested and charged are men. That’s because “dominant perpetrator” laws encourage the arrest of the larger, stronger partner, i.e., the man. Such gender-biased charging policies are unconstitutional, notes the SAVE report.
Prosecutor malfeasance has real-world consequences. In Virginia, 15% of sexual assault convictions were shown to be false by DNA evidence. In domestic violence cases, some 80 – 85% of allegations are ultimately recanted, but “no-drop” policies mean prosecutors often pursue them anyway.
“For the sake of our families and our system of justice, prosecutors must be held to long-established ethical standards,” says S.A.V.E. spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “Probable cause and due process of law cannot be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.”
S.A.V.E.’s new special report can be viewed here: http://www.saveservices.org/downloads/Prosecutor-Bias-Misconduct-in-Domestic-Violence
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is a victim-advocacy organization working for evidence-based solutions to partner violence and sexual assault: www.saveservices.org.