Duke case is unusual in terms of accountability for prosecutorial misconduct


A column in Sunday’s New York Times highlights the reality of prosecutorial misconduct – noting that, unlike the prosecutor in the Duke lacross case, most prosecutors whose misconduct leads to wrongful convictions are never held accountable.  Although Michael B. Nifong, the prosecutor in the Duke case, was disbarred for his intentional misconduct, many prosecutors whose wrongdoing leads to miscarriages of justice are punished lightly, if at all.  The column turns to several leading experts on the subject for insight into this imbalance.

Mr. Gershman, a former prosecutor in Manhattan who teaches law at Pace University, said the Nifong case was handled differently because of the publicity. “The fact that it resulted in national exposure,” he said, “had to have put the disciplinary body and the entire system of justice under the spotlight.”

“You have rogue prosecutors all over the country who have engaged in far, far more egregious misconduct, and in a pattern of cases,” he added. “And nothing happens.”

The Chicago Tribune, for instance, analyzed 381 murder cases in which the defendant received a new trial because of prosecutorial misconduct. None of the prosecutors were convicted of a crime or disbarred.

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Prosecutorial misconduct was a contributing factor in James Giles’ wrongful conviction, which was officially overturned last week.  Prosecutors in that case withheld evidence from Giles; defense attorney that would have pointed to the true perpetrator.

Learn more about

prosecutorial misconduct

in our Understand the Causes section.

Read about

James Giles

, the 204th exoneree.


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