In an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, Professor Richard Moran considers malicious prosecutions and government misconduct that leads to wrongful convictions. In the case of four men
awarded more than $100 million last week
by a federal judge for the wrongful conviction they suffered in 1965, Moran says the withholding of evidence by FBI agents was malicious and should be punished. And this type of misconduct may not be as rare as we think, Moran says.
Mistakes are good-faith errors — like taking the wrong exit off the highway, or dialing the wrong telephone number. There is no malice behind them. However, when officers of the court conspire to convict a defendant of first-degree murder and send him to death row, they are doing much more than making an innocent mistake or error. They are breaking the law.
Perhaps this explains why, even when a manifestly innocent man is about to be executed, a prosecutor can be dead set against reopening an old case. Since so many wrongful convictions result from official malicious behavior, prosecutors, policemen, witnesses or even jurors and judges could themselves face jail time for breaking the law in obtaining an unlawful conviction.
Read the full op-ed article here
. (New York Times, 08/02/07, paid subscription required)
Read more about how
has led to wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing.