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Where Are the Honorable Prosecutors?

Where Are the Honorable Prosecutors?

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November 5, 2013

Where are the good apples?

The Business Rights Center has noted a fair few bad deeds by prosecutors. Timothy Crudo lied to the jury about Greg Reyes. Prosecutors have interfered with business defendants’ relationships with their lawyers . Prosecutors threatened a man with half a century in prison to get him to give up his right to a trial and accept a sentence of half a year or less, and U.S. Attorney General  Eric Holder sanctioned that . Stefan Cassella explained his harsher treatment of one forfeiture victim by explaining that another hadn’t spoken to the media . I could go on.

The Arizona Supreme Court has found prosecutorial misconduct or impropriety in more than a fifth of capital convictions.

One might try to blame all of this on a few bad apples, and I understand that inclination. But last month the Arizona Republic revealed that the Arizona Supreme Court has found prosecutorial misconduct or impropriety in more than a fifth of capital convictions. Forty-two times since 2002, death row inmates have gone to that state’s supreme court alleging prosecutorial misconduct. And in nearly half of those appeals, the court agreed: Prosecutors had fallen short —in cases that could end people’s lives. Many of those cases were not overturned; rarely was a prosecutor punished . Defense lawyers were afraid to file Bar charges, and some prosecutors were more focused on defense misconduct. (Note: Misconduct identified by the Arizona Supreme Court could be as little as eye-rolling, or much more serious.)

Coke, who helped shape the tradition of liberty under law, was attorney general of England under Elizabeth I.

I am a lawyer. Hanging on my wall is the document marking my admission to the Bar. It says I am a person of good moral character, which is supposed to be one of the prerequisites for this profession. And I would like to believe that prosecutors—some of the most powerful lawyers in this country—are, on the whole, upstanding citizens committed to the rule of law and the pursuit of justice.

But I keep seeing more and more evidence that many of them are not. So I have to ask: Where are the honorable ones? The job prosecutors have chosen is to pursue justice under law. How many of them are as serious about doing justice to their colleagues who violate defendants' legal rights or effectively deprive them of the law's protections as they are about punishing the defendants they identify among the rest of us?

I genuinely don't know, and I doubt I ever will. But it is clear that too many of them are not.

This post has been revised and weakend by the author in light of further reading and reflection. Look for a further blog post on the subject in the near future.

For further reading: