State Misconduct

Some wrongful convictions are caused by honest mistakes. But in far too many cases, the very people who are responsible for ensuring truth and justice — law enforcement officials and prosecutors — lose sight of these obligations and instead focus solely on securing convictions. The cases of wrongful convictions are filled with evidence of negligence, fraud, or misconduct by prosecutors or police departments.

While most law enforcement officers and prosecutors are honest and trustworthy, criminal justice is a human endeavor and the possibility for negligence, misconduct, and corruption exists.

misconduct orangecountycriminaldefenselawyerblog com

via Innocence Project of Florida


Common forms of misconduct by law enforcement officials include:

  • making suggestions when conducting identification procedures
  • coercing false confessions
  • lying or intentionally misleading jurors about their observations
  • failing to turn over exculpatory evidence to prosecutors
  • providing incentives to secure unreliable evidence from informants

Common forms of misconduct by prosecutors include:

  • withholding exculpatory evidence from defense
  • deliberately mishandling, mistreating, or destroying evidence
  • allowing witnesses they know or should know are not truthful to testify
  • pressuring defense witnesses not to testify
  • relying on fraudulent forensic experts
  • making misleading arguments that overstate the probative value of testimony

Tragically, prosecutors and law enforcement face little, if any, consequences for their actions. Prosecutors have “full immunity” from misconduct claims. And the standard to receive money damages for misconduct on the part of law enforcement and other state actors is incredibly high. Only one prosecutor has served time for his role in sending an innocent man to prison, and he served just 10 days.

For real life examples of this phenomenon, please read the stories of Dale Helmig, Ted White and Ellen Reasonover.