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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Essay on Prosecutor Misconduct - Example of Misconduct of Prosecutors

It may appear that the primary responsibility of the state prosecutor is to adduce evidence that will convict the accused (Patrice Gaines, 2007, p.1).  It may also seem that as the state prosecutor his role is to ensure the conviction of the accused.  That is not the case.    The main responsibility of the state prosecutor is not to satisfy the injured party or the victim.  His role is geared towards ensuring that justice has been served.  This means that his responsibility as a state prosecutor is to try to get to the bottom of things by determining whether the accused is really guilty or whether there is sufficient evidence that can be used to rebut the constitutional presumption of innocent against the accused.   If there is indeed sufficient evidence against the accused then the prosecutor must perform his function by presenting these pieces of evidence before the court.  

If, on the other hand, there is no sufficient evidence against accused that may be used to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt then the prosecutor must not attempt to “produce” evidence so that they can be presented in court.  This is however not the case in many cases.  Many prosecutors have been accused of misconduct in the performance of their duties that have resulted in the false convictions of the accused (Susanne Williams, 2003, p.1). 

In a study conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, they found that prosecutorial misconduct played an important role in more than 2,000 cases that have resulted in dismissal of criminal charges, reversal of convictions and reduced sentences (“Prosecutorial Misconduct Revealed by Research”, 2003, p.1).       The study entitled “Harmful Error” also revealed that innocent men and women had been wrongfully convicted of grave offenses such as murder, rape, kidnapping and assault.  In 28 cases involving 32 defendants, prosecutorial misconduct led to the wrongful conviction of innocent individuals who were later exonerated (“Prosecutorial Misconduct Revealed by Research”, 2003, p.1).  

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An example of prosecutorial misconduct is mishandling of physical evidence.  It must be stressed that physical evidence like the murder weapon or a signed confession are convincing evidence.  They have the potential of overturning the case in favor of the accused or ensuring his conviction.  But if these pieces of evidence are hidden, destroyed or tampered with then the accused loses his chance of being acquitted.  Sad to say, some prosecutors have been accused of participating in the mishandling of physical evidence. 
The second example is courtroom misconduct.  The primary responsibility of State Prosecutor when he files a case behalf of the government is to practice candor, fairness and good faith before the court.  He must present before the court all the evidence necessary whether the same be favorable or not to the government so that justice may be given to both parties.  He must refrain from making statements that are immaterial for purposes of determining the guilt or innocence of the accused.  In most cases however, prosecutors have been involved in making inappropriate and inflammatory comments before the jury for the purpose of arousing sympathy in favor of the injured party. 

The third common form of prosecutorial misconduct is harassment of witnesses by threatening them or badgering them or encouraging them to lie before the court.  Witnesses are often presented for the purpose of testifying before the court.  If they have personally seen the crime or have any personal knowledge of the commission of crime, their responsibility is to tell to the court only what they personally know.  In most cases however, witnesses who do not have personal knowledge of the crime have been presented before the court.  They have been encouraged and trained to lie by the state prosecutor merely for the purpose of ensuring conviction.  

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