A recent opinion piece in the New York Times sheds light on a troubling problem within the criminal justice system – prosecutorial misconduct has become rampant. In particular, the misconduct the article refers to involves violations of the legal requirement for prosecutors to provide the defense with exculpatory evidence – or evidence that can potentially cast doubt on guilt and affect the ultimate outcome of a case.
Because criminal prosecutors have the authority to determine which criminal charges are brought against an accused individual, and because roughly 97% of criminal cases are resolved before trial, the charge prosecutors choose to pursue plays a crucial role in case outcomes. Any information that could potentially exonerate a defendant, then, is as equally crucial and is necessary so as to not provide prosecutors – who act on behalf of the government – with too much power.
Unfortunately, as the opinion piece asserts, prosecutors far too often fail to furnish the defense with such information. This, legal experts suggest, may be due in part to the fact that a prosecutor's job is to believe in the defendant's guilt, as well as to determine when evidence may be helpful to the defense. When they believe in the strength of their case and evidence, they may have little motivation to turn over small bits of exculpatory evidence.
Aside from these violations, the article goes on to claim that courts punish virtually no prosecutors who commit this type of misconduct. Simply put, prosecutors have begun to not care about these violations because courts do not make them care. Ultimately, the article makes the point that enforcing these rules, punishing violators, and adopting an "open file" policy would not only protect the rights of the criminally accused, but also help to preserve the public's trust in the judicial system.
Why Working with Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys Matters
Ensuring that prosecutors and other government officials conduct themselves ethically, professionally, and within the law may not always be within the control of criminal defendants. What is in their control, however, is who they choose to represent them to level the playing field on their behalves.
At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our Ventura criminal defense lawyers are passionate about protecting the rights, freedoms, and futures of our clients during all stages of the legal process. We fight for our clients, and work aggressively to achieve the most favorable outcome possible, regardless of prosecutorial misconduct or the tactics used by the "other side."
If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense in Ventura, Los Angeles, or any of the surrounding communities of Southern California and would like to learn how our firm can help, call (800) 462-7160 for a FREE consultation.