The New York Times ran an editorial on Monday suggesting that the federal government begin monitoring prosecutors suspected of and known for misconduct to avoid wrongful convictions.
In light of many recent exonerations involving prosecutorial misconduct, the editorial board wrote that certain prosecutors should be monitored by the Justice Department, which has authorization to do so under a 1994 federal statute barring any “pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers” that deprive a person of her or her legal or constitutional rights.
Since the 1963 Supreme Court decision Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors are required to turn over any exculpatory evidence to the defense. The editorial notes that in many districts, prosecutors frequently withhold evidence from the defense in order to secure a conviction.
The editorial cites the case of David Brown in Louisiana, which will go before the Supreme Court this month, as an example of the dire need for prosecutorial oversight. Brown was sentenced to death for the 1999 murder of a prison guard, which he maintains he did not commit. Brown’s lawyers recently discovered evidence that prosecutors withheld testimony from a witness who said two other men—not Brown—committed the murder.
“It is time for a new approach to ending this behavior: federal oversight of prosecutors’ offices that repeatedly ignore defendants’ legal and constitutional rights,” the editorial board wrote.
Read the full editorial here.