How Does Prosecutorial Misconduct Affect Cases?
Prosecutors are government lawyers who handle investigations and/or prosecutions of criminal offenses. Their goal is to protect the public and adhere to their government duties by working to put criminals behind bars. In Berger v. United States, 1953, the court held that the prosecutor “is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape, nor innocence suffer. ”Not to mention, prosecutors have a responsibility to ensure a fair and speedy trial as afforded by the Constitution of the United States.
Ultimately, prosecutors have great power and even greater responsibilities.
Unfortunately, prosecutors may abuse their government powers and commit various types of misconduct that we discuss below. These types of prosecutorial misconduct in criminal cases can result in unfair trials and subsequently, false convictions for defendants. A good lawyer will work to help you avoid these injustices and acts of prosecutorial misconduct throughout your case.
The Introduction of False Evidence
One type of prosecutorial misconduct is the introduction of false evidence. False evidence can be fabricated, forged, or otherwise tainted evidence, and has the power to derail a criminal proceeding. An innocent person could suffer behind bars while a guilty person walks free. One example of a prosecutor introducing false evidence is promising someone a lighter jail sentence for lying in their witness testimony.
Let’s say two people murdered a child and one person got caught and went to prison, while the other person got away. The police are convinced they found the fugitive, but not 100%. They arrest the murder suspect, despite having little evidence, because the prosecutor is so focused on securing a conviction to bring peace of mind to the victim’s parents and the local community. As such, the prosecutor promises the inmate a shorter sentence if they falsify their testimony against the defendant. The inmate agrees to lie in their testimony, convincing the jury that the defendant is guilty.
Testimony can provide evidence for a crime, and in this example, that testimony was a lie. It’s false evidence.
Prosecutors who make certain types of arguments in their opening and closing statements could be accused of making improper arguments. This is seen as the leading cause of unfairness in capital trials. Examples of prosecutorial misconduct involving improper arguments include:
- Asserting facts that are not in evidence
- Misstating laws
- Vouching for the credibility of a witness
- Mischaracterizing evidence
- Discriminating in jury selection
- Interfering with a defendant’s Constitutional rights
- Failing to train subordinates
- Improperly using the media
Withholding Evidence from the Defense
Failing to disclose exculpatory evidence is a violation of due process. Evidence that is material to a defendant’s guilt or punishment must be presented at trial by the prosecution, as it can make the difference between freedom and prison. For context, exculpatory comes from the Latin word exculpate, meaning “freed from blame.” As such, evidence that could free a defendant from blame must be presented at trial, or else it is prosecutorial misconduct.
Championing Your Freedom & Legal Rights
Our Denver criminal defense attorneys are aware of the frequency and gravity of all types of prosecutorial misconduct in criminal cases. Clients trust us to ensure no misconduct occurs in their case, and if it does, they trust our team to ensure it does not go unaddressed. We go the distance to protect the freedoms and rights of our clients, so if you would like to learn how Gerash Steiner & Blanton, P.C. can serve you, please contact (303) 732-5048!