A column in the New York Times explores a pattern of misconduct from a New York City prosecutor’s office, and the pattern doesn’t end with conviction. Prosecutors in the borough of Queens, Jim Dwyer writes, are reluctant to admit their misconduct and they rarely punish their own. In 80 Queens cases overturned by appeals courts between 1989 and 2003 for prosecutorial misconduct, senior officials took no disciplinary action.
Last week New York City settled a wrongful conviction lawsuit filed by a defendant, Shih-Wei Su, for $3.5 million – one of the biggest payments the state has ever made to a wrongfully convicted person. Su served nearly 13 years in prison for an attempted murder he has always said he didn’t commit. He was freed after his lawyers proved that prosecutors lied about a deal they made with a witness who testified against him.
A prosecutor admitted in an investigation that she had been “naïve, inexperienced and, possibly, stupid” in allowing a witness to lie on the stand. She received a written admonition.
Mr. Su was outraged. “Is 13 years worth of my life worth only an admonition?” he wrote to the committee. “Even jaywalking can get prison time. So can stealing a loaf of bread.
“With all due respect, the message that this committee is sending out is loud and clear: Don’t worry about using false evidence; you will only get an admonition if you are stupid enough to admit it.”
Read the full column here
. (New York Times, 10/21/08)