September 17, 2020
Both the Washington Post and the NY Times published major news stories on government misconduct which has led to innocent people being convicted and incarcerated or to be falsely accused. This morning's Washington Post has an article on page 2 titled: Study: 54 percent of exonerees faced misconduct. The study was commissioned by the National Registry of Exonerations. It reviewed 2400 exonerations between 1989 and 2019. Close to 80% of exonerees were originally convicted of violent felonies. Of the 2400, 93 were sentenced to death and later cleared of any wrongdoing prior to their executions. The study found that police and prosecutors rarely faced any consequences for their misconduct.
Police and Prosecutor misconduct is one of the many terrible injustices that too often goes on routinely in the United States. But what really makes me angry is that both police and prosecutors are never punished in any way for holding back exculpatory evidence or for perjury. Too often we hold only some people accountable for crimes--often poor people--while we turn the other way when people in power commit crimes. This is why so many people have so little confidence in our criminal justice system.
Other media have reported how a federal judge castigated federal prosecutors of the Southern District of New York for withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense in a case of an Iranian businessman accused of laundering $115 million through the American financial system.
U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan said that the actions of the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office had eroded public trust in the criminal justice system by making "countless" belated disclosures to lawyers. While their client's conviction was vacated, Steptoe & Johnson attorneys have pursued evidence they suspected the government had withheld.
As more and more evidence of police and prosecutorial misconduct become public, it is not farfetched that such misconduct might be more widespread and prevalent than is widely assumed. Police and prosecutors are human: they make mistakes and sometimes they commit crimes. The real issue is they are rarely held accountable. That has to change!