Crossing the Line: Responding to Prosecutorial Misconduct

American Bar Association, Crossing the Line: Responding to Prosecutorial Misconduct (2008). Few would claim that any prosecutor intentionally sets out to seek the conviction of an innocent person. Rather, it is argued that prosecutorial misconduct stems from a “win at all cost” mentality underlying the desire to further a career, or a firm belief in the defendant’s guilt notwithstanding admissible evidence. Regardless of the causes, the effects of prosecutorial misconduct are distressing. Two different studies of persons exonerated by DNA evidence have shown that prosecutorial misconduct played a role in convicting an innocent person nearly half of the time. Moreover, assuming that the defendant is factually culpable, a conviction secured through the improper actions of a prosecutor could be unconstitutional and, thus, subject to reversal. The result is that the innocent are convicted and the guilty go free, which can only exacerbate the public’s loss of trust in the integrity of the criminal justice system.