News 09.19.12

San Antonio Express-News Joins Prosecutorial Misconduct Dialogue

An editorial in Tuesday’s

San Antonio Express-News

welcomes the public discussion over wrongful prosecution in Texas criminal cases that heated up last week when the Texas District and County Attorney Association issued a report on prosecutorial misconduct that mischaracterized data released by the Prosecutorial Oversight Coalition (that includes the Innocence Project).

 

The Prosecutorial Oversight Coalition released data about 91 court findings of prosecutorial misconduct between 2004 – 2008 in Texas in advance of a forum in Austin on the issue in March 2012. When releasing the data, the coalition acknowledged that the data was not a final report and cautioned that the lack of transparency and accountability on the issue made it extremely difficult to provide data fully illustrating the problem. The purpose of the forum was to spark a conversation with prosecutors and other policymakers about the role of prosecutorial misconduct in wrongful convictions and systemic solutions to the problem.

 

The

San Antonio Express-News

writes:


Recent high-profile cases involving Texas death row inmates have focused much-needed attention on the way the state’s criminal justice system operates.

 

If prosecutors feel defensive and feel as if they are under attack, that’s understandable. But no one is saying there has been widespread or rampant intentional prosecutorial misconduct over the years.

 

A close look at the Innocence Project data indicates courts made 91 findings of error during the five-year review period. The findings were deemed harmless in 72 of those cases.

 

Considering the high number of criminal cases that go through the criminal justice system each year, that is a relatively low number, but even one case in which one defendant has been wrongfully convicted based on a prosecutor’s conduct is one too many.

 

While it is easy to become defensive and downplay the merits of adverse findings, we are encouraged to see acknowledgment of past problems and steps being taken to correct them.

 

There are many lessons to be learned to keep history from repeating itself.

Read the

full editorial

.

 

Read the Innocence Project’s

press release

responding to “Setting the Record Straight on Prosecutorial Misconduct.”

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