Contact: Teri Stoddard
Prosecutors Engage in Wide Range of Unethical Practices, CPI Report Reveals
WASHINGTON / June 26, 2013 – Prosecutors engage in many different forms of unethical conduct, which often contribute to wrongful convictions. Examples of prosecutor misconduct include prosecuting without required evidence, allowing considerations of race and gender to influence case selection, hiding innocence-proving evidence, and allowing perjurers to escape legal sanctions.
The case of star athlete Brian Banks, falsely accused and wrongfully convicted of rape, illustrates the range of prosecutorial abuses that can occur in just a single case.
First, the prosecutor charged Banks with a serious crime, even though there was no DNA, no witnesses, and no forensic evidence of rape. Second, the prosecutor resorted to coercive negotiating tactics, demanding that the 17-year-old student decide on the plea offer in only one hour without the benefit of parental advice. Third, the prosecutor failed to charge false-accuser Wanetta Gibson with perjury, even after she admitted on videotape that her accusation was fabricated.
Banks was exonerated on May 24, 2012 by Los Angeles Judge Mark C. Kim. Banks recently signed as a linebacker with the Atlanta Falcons football team.
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity report reveals the four most common forms of prosecutor misconduct in sexual assault and domestic violence cases: Charging without probable cause, engaging in selective prosecution, concealing evidence, and failing to enforce perjury statutes. Titled “Prosecutor Ethics in Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Cases,” the report can be viewed here: http://www.saveservices.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/White%20Paper-Prosecutor-Misconduct.pdf
The CPI report also spotlights the case of assistant district attorney Mary Kellett. Last December the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar found Kellett guilty of violating 7 ethical requirements, including covering up exculpatory evidence. Her case soon will go before the state Supreme Court to set sanctions.
“A generation ago, Perry Mason and other TV shows lionized prosecutors as defenders of freedom and justice. Now many Americans have come to fear them.” notes CPI spokesperson Sheryl Hutter. “And in the overwhelming majority of cases, the prosecutorial misconduct will never be detected, investigated, reported, or sanctioned.”
The National Registry of Exonerations has documented over 1,000 cases of persons who were exonerated from wrongful convictions for a broad range of crimes. In 43% of these cases, misconduct by prosecutors and other officials played a role in the bogus conviction: http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Documents/NRE2012UPDATE4_1_13_FINAL.pdf
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity, a project of Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, is working to preserve the presumption of innocence, assure equal treatment under law, and bring an end to wrongful convictions: www.prosecutorintegrity.org