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Can a prosecutor be sentenced to jail for role in wrongful conviction?

A former prosecutor and judge in Texas will go to jail for his role in the wrongful conviction of a man. The prosecutor has pled guilty to intentionally failing to disclose evidence in a case that sent an innocent man to prison for the murder of his wife. The prosecutor turned judge, possessed evidence at the time of the trial that may have cleared the accused man of the crime.

A former prosecutor and judge in Texas will go to jail for his role in the wrongful conviction of a man. The prosecutor has pled guilty to intentionally failing to disclose evidence in a case that sent an innocent man to prison for the murder of his wife. The prosecutor turned judge, possessed evidence at the time of the trial that may have cleared the accused man of the crime.

The evidence in question included statements made by the crime's only eyewitness who said that the accused man was not the culprit to the crime. The prosecutor failed to disclose this evidence at the time of the trail, and the accused man spent 25 years in prison, while the prosecutor's career flourished in the wake of the wrongful conviction.

Wrongful convictions due to prosecutors failing to disclose evidence in support of the defendant are not new issues. However, what makes this case unique is the fact that the prosecutor was punished for his role in the wrongful conviction of this man. By pleading guilty to criminal contempt, this judge and former prosecutor must give us his career on the bench and his law license, in addition to performing 500 hours of community service and spending 10 days in jail.

Brady Violations

Disclosure breaches, or "Brady" violations, occur quite frequently, and often lead to the wrongful conviction of innocent people. "Brady" material refers to any evidence that is favorable to the defense and could impact the outcome of the defendant's case. If a prosecutor fails to disclose this information, it is called a "Brady" violation, and is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Ethical Rule Order

The Ethical Rule Order was proposed by the Hon. Nancy Gerther and Innocence Project Co-Founder Barry Scheck. This proposed order requires that prior to the trial, prosecutors must disclose all evidence that "tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense." Defense attorneys should request that this order be in place in any pre-trial motions.

Primary Causes of Wrongful Convictions

There are several main causes of wrongful convictions of innocent people in addition to the failure to disclose evidence. These issues may arise at different points during an investigation or trial. In most cases, law enforcement and government officials act in an honorable capacity, but it is possible to encounter misconduct during a crime investigation. Accused persons may even experience harassment, intimidation, or scapegoating in order to proceed with charges or a conviction that is unwarranted. Other issues to consider that may result in a wrongful conviction include the following.

  • Eyewitness misidentification
  • Unvalidated forensic science
  • False confessions
  • Snitch testimony
  • Police & prosecutorial misconduct
  • Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

If you or someone you know has been wrongfully convicted of a crime, it's important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can help you review your original case, and may be able to help you argue that a wrongful conviction occurred.

References:

Godsey, M. (2013, November 08). For the First Time Ever, a Prosecutor Will Go to Jail for Wrongfully Convicting an Innocent Man. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-godsey/for-the-first-time-ever-a_b_4221000.html?ncid=engmodushpmg00000006

Causes of Wrongful Convictions. (n.d.). Retrieved August 15, 2017, from http://www.newenglandinnocence.org/causes-of-wrongful-convictions/

Misconduct: Failure to Disclose. (n.d.). Retrieved August 15, 2017, from http://www.prosecutorialaccountability.com/defining-misconduct/failure-to-disclose/

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