Texas Prosecutors Release Their Own Study: Prosecutorial Misconduct Isn’t So Bad According To Their Investigation. Surprise.
In Texas, prosecutorial misconduct is a serious issue. Innocent people are put behind bars by district attorneys who are either incompetent or overzealous here in Texas. We monitor stories of district attorneys and prosecutors for the state doing bad jobs, either negligently or with outright intent. Rogues are out there.
It happens a lot. Consider our list of innocent folk who have been wrongfully convicted here in Texas – and this isn’t a complete list by a longshot.
Research Into Prosecutorial Misconduct in Texas Finds Misdeeds by DAs Resulting in Wrongful Convictions
Investigations are being done. Recently, there was a 500+ page report issued by the United States District Court in the Ted Stevens matter: you can read online, in detail, all about the scary examples of prosecutorial misconduct found by that special court-ordered investigation.
There’s even been a state-wide summit on this issue which has received national attention – a spotlight deserved in no small part for speakers like Michael Morton, an innocent man released from prison after spending many years there all due to prosecutorial misconduct. Mr. Morton has just begun giving speeches in support of prosecutorial conduct reform, his first speech given around a week ago to the Longview Greggton Rotary Club where he argued that the Texas Legislature needs to step up and make sure that bad prosecutors are disciplined and made to answer for their bad acts.
In a related matter, an official Court of Inquiry was set up regarding Michael Morton’s wrongful conviction – and according to Court Order, that inquiry was set to begin on September 11, 2012.
Texas Prosecutors Organization (TDCAA) Issues Its Own Findings
Now, the organization that represents prosecutors and district attorneys in the State of Texas has responded to all this concern. The Texas District and County Attorneys Association tells us that it has done its own 8 month study of prosecutorial misconduct leading to wrongful convictions and based upon its research, things aren’t so bad as they’ve been portrayed. You can read their press release here.
- Finding 1: claims of widespread prosecutorial misconduct are vastly overstated.
- Finding 2: in the small number of cases involving actual misconduct by prosecutors, the central issue is often inadequate disclosure of exculpatory or impeaching information (called Brady information).
- Finding 3: some Brady violations are committed by law enforcement officers, not prosecutors.
- Finding 4: law schools typically do not teach Brady as part of their core ethics and criminal law curricula.
- Finding 5: cognitive bias can play a negative role in prosecutor decision-making.
- Finding 6: Public information available from the State Bar is inadequate to assess the effectiveness of the State Bar’s discipline of prosecutors.
- Finding 7: Prosecutorial immunity is necessary to ensure independent and effective prosecution in our adversarial system.
- Finding 8: Misidentifications by eyewitnesses are the leading cause of wrongful convictions, accurate forensic science is vital to ensuring confidence in criminal convictions.
- Finding 9: The professionalism of Texas prosecutors has improved in the last 30 years due to increased state funding and cooperation with other allied entities, but high caseloads and other demands threaten that progress.
So, according to the Prosecutors Group, the concerns everyone has able prosecutorial misconduct is just silly – maybe even a “witch hunt”?? According to their report, concern is “vastly overstated,” and when innocent people go to jail it seems that it’s mostly the fault of eyewitnesses getting it wrong (“misidentifications by eyewitnesses are the leading cause of wrongful convictions”) or sometimes the blame lies with the police officers who fail to follow Brady (see finding 3).
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