Investigation for misconduct

Respond to the stated question, including any relevance to and implications on the field of criminal justice. Be sure to discuss the issue(s) to which the question pertain(s). Remarks can include your opinion(s), but must be based on experience, research, and/or prior learning. Use this exercise to foster a rich dialogue with your colleagues about issues that are important to the field of criminal justice.

During the span of the discussion, you must post to this board on four unique days.

Your initial posting must be no less than 350 words and is due no later than Thursday 11:59 PM EST/EDT. The day you post will count as one of your required four unique postings.

You will also be required to post responses to at least three of your colleagues’ initial postings. Responses must be no less than 100 words, be posted on at least three unique days, and are due no later than Sunday at 11:59 PM EST/EDT.

4 responses total

Respond to stated question 350 words

Respond to 1-3. 100 words each.

Stated Question (initial post question). We often think of misconduct only being committing by police or correctional officers, but what happens when the prosecutor is under investigation for misconduct. Read the article by Elaine Cassel and think of the implications from the actions of the prosecutor and future cases. The link to this article is also in the Webliography.

https://supreme.findlaw.com/legal-commentary/prose…

#1. I think that in a case where the prosecutor is under investigation for misconduct no matter the reason, it effects the credibility of the entire court system and how people perceive the law and justice system.

Not only does it make the court system look bad, but it also undermines the defendants’ rights for a fair verdict (Cassel, 2004). Additionally, retirals are expensive and that is money that could’ve been saved if the prosecutor would’ve done what is ethically and morally right.

Cassel believes that prosecutors should be able to be penalized by the bar of any state in which they practice and that they should be punished harder. I could not agree more. The prosecutor holds tremendous responsibility by representing the state and ultimately the government.

Cassel mentions that the prosecutor must be referred to the state where he/she was licensed, most states have no interest in investigating a case that is outside of their state and that’s how many prosecutor misconducts get away (Cassel, 2004).

Cassel states that the OPR rarely holds prosecutors responsible for misconduct and even when they turn it over to the state the rarely follow up (Cassel, 2004).

I think it’s very sad that someone of that statue does not get the proper repercussions. It sets a very bad example to the public and how everyone else is expected to be treated if they were to commit a crime. The public depends on the prosecutor to make the right ethical decisions as they represent the public.

This leads the public mistrust and doubt the legal system and what it stands for. A violation of ethics such as misconduct by a prosecutor questions the integrity of the legal system overall (Cassel, 2004).

I agree with Cassel on the fact that she states that prosecutors should be fined or even imprisoned for the acts they have committed. I do not believe this statement is too harsh, as the prosecutor would’ve gotten away with far worse. Not only was the prosecutor okay with ruining someone’s life based on incorrect or missing information, but he also caused the public to mistrust the legal system because he decided to set the wrong example.

References:

Cassel, E (2004). Prosecutor Misconduct in two recent High-Profile cases. Why it happens and how we can better prevent it

Retrieved from: https://supreme.findlaw.com/legal-commentary/prose…


#2. Misconduct in any field of work should be unacceptable but I think that criminal justice professionals are held to a higher standard because they are there to enforce the law and do what is right. When a prosecutor does something such as hold back evidence or place evidence in the case that is inadmissible then they are violating the law. Elaine Cassel mentioned that these actions severely undermine the defendants’ rights (Cassel, 2004). Just because a person goes to court does not automatically make them guilty. These people do have rights just like everyone else.

I agree with Cassel that a prosecutor should be penalized by the bar if misconduct does happen and that harsher punishments should take place (Cassel, 2004). An article in the New York Times written by Michael Wines, discusses multiple instances where people were wrongly accused. In one instance, all the evidence pointed to one man but a different man was accused and spent 23 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Wines states “In at least 45 prosecutions dating to the 1970’s, the lawsuit says, the district attorney’s office possessed evidence that could have helped the accused, but failed to disclose it” (Wines, 2018). Failing to disclose evidence that could let a person go free is just as bad as putting evidence into a case that is inadmissible. They are both wrong!

The public should be able to trust the justice system and if people are being wrongfully accused it does not make the system look good. Some people may not already have confidence in the justice system so these types of cases make people really uneasy. The people that are wrongfully accused and spend 20 or 30 plus years in prison for a crime they did not commit is absurd. Just like not all police officers are corrupt, not all prosecutors are either but the ones that are should have to face the consequences of their actions. I hope that the types of punishment that they get does get harsher. Cassel states that these prosecutors could have fines or temporary imprisonment (Cassel, 2004) but I think if an innocent man can go to jail for 20 years that they too should serve more than a “temporary imprisonment.”

References

Cassel, E. (2004, February 12). Retrieved from Find Law: https://supreme.findlaw.com/legal-commentary/prose…

Wines, M. (2018, January 17). Retrieved from New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/us/prosecutors-…

#3. Any type of misconduct in the criminal justice field is unacceptable and should be addressed immediately. Prosecutors should be held accountable just like a police officer or a correctional officer would be if they were partaking in any type of misconduct of justice. Public trust is given to the prosecutor that they we prosecute individuals whom have honestly violated the law and deserve to go to prison. When misconduct occurs, trust is immediately questioned and broken. Cassel states, “Obviously, actions like these severely undermine defendants’ rights. They also shake public confidence in our criminal justice system” (Cassel, 2004). Prosecutors are supposed to use the evidence that proves an individual is guilty, not “cheat” the justice system to get a win in a case.

Cassel stated in the article, “I will argue that prosecutors should be able to be penalized by the bar of any state in which they practice” (2004). I am in total agreement with Cassel. Prosecutors should be penalized and have their licenses revokes if any type of misconduct occurs. Prosecutors are not above the law and must follow the rules and laws like everyone else. It was shocking to learn from the article, that the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility “rarely held prosecutors accountable for misconduct. . . OPR rarely followed up (Cassel, 2004). What is the point of having the Department of Justices Office of Professional Responsibility if they are not going to do what they were intended to do? Cassel also stated “OPR is supposed to file an annual report, but the last one I found on its website was for 2001.” (2004). From this information, it is clear the OPR is not taking misconduct seriously when it comes to prosecutors.

Not holding prosecutors accountable for any type of misconduct is sending a message, that it is “OK; to use evidence when you’re not suppose to and not use evidence when are supposed to. Judges need to use their discretion more and as Cassel stated, “. . . to hold those responsible in contempt of court — and to impose upon them fines, or even temporary imprisonment” (Cassel, 2004). If the OPR is not going to do their job, let the judges make it a point that prosecutors’ misconduct will not be tolerated. The public deserves to feel as though they can trust the criminal justice system.

Cassel, E. (2004, February 12). Retrieved from Find Law: https://supreme.findlaw.com/legal-commentary/prose…