Prosecutors engage in prosecution misconduct by acting inconsistently with the ethical mandates they should obey. In many cases, they do so because they are usually under significant pressure to convict criminals, especially where violent and high-profile cases occur. Due to these pressures, overwhelming caseloads, and honest motives to seek justice, many prosecutors behave unethically regarding the crimes they are handling.
As a result of prosecutor misconduct, many people have been wrongly convicted. However, sometimes the prosecutors make honest mistakes. For instance, prosecution misconduct may occur when the prosecutor majorly focuses on the convenient suspect rather than the correct one, when they hide important evidence, rely on improper evidence, and fabricate numerous forms of evidence. All these forms of prosecution misconduct can lead to overturning a conviction in an appeal.
The Types of Prosecutorial Misconduct in California
In California, Prosecution misconduct comes in several ways. The misconducts vary depending on the nature of the case in question, among other factors. The following are the main forms of prosecutorial misconduct in California:
Failing to Provide Evidence
All the prosecutors in the state have a lawful duty to defend the following forms of evidence:
Evidence to support the alleged victim deserves a less serious punishment
Evidence to prove the alleged victim is not considered guilty for their conduct
For Example, Peter faces charges for burglary after a grand jury indictment. He vehemently denies the charges from the first proceeding. He argues that he was not involved in the case because the offense occurred when he was somewhere else. He added when the crime occurred; he was at a party.
The main issue with his defense is the defense attorney does not have a witness to prove Peter was at the party at the time of the crime. Later, a different person comes before the prosecution team and issues a statement concerning Peter's ceremony. The person claims he saw Peter at the party when the alleged crime occurred in the statement. However, the prosecutor ignores the evidence and fails to share the information with defense lawyers. In California, the law will consider this act as prosecutorial misconduct.
Focusing on the Wrong Suspect
Due to the hurry to punish the lawbreakers, the prosecution might focus on a specific suspect regardless of evidence and other factors which indicate a different person. Because of the nature of their work, many prosecutors tend to perform their duties in the public eyes, being pressured by the media, especially in cases that involve violence. So, because of this kind of pressure, many prosecutors make mistakes devoting all the liability to one suspect without conducting thorough investigations about other possible suspects.
Sometimes even when the prosecutor has evidence showing the other person committed the crime, they may disregard the information and focus on convicting the wrong suspect. When you strongly believe you are not the perpetrator of the crime in question, you need to discuss the matter with your criminal defense attorney. Do not remain silent until it's too late.
Expression of Personal Opinions
Another common way of prosecution misconduct involves expressing personal opinions by the prosecutor. According to the state's laws, prosecutors commit prosecutorial misconduct when they express their personal opinions during a trial. However, not every opinion leads to prosecution misconduct. For instance, it’s allowed for the prosecution team to issue an opinion about the alleged defendant. Also, the prosecutor may comment on the witness's credibility. Note, the prosecutor only gives their opinion based on the presented evidence and not their own opinions. Usually, unfolded opinions lead to prosecutorial misconduct.
Presenting False Evidence
One of the most familiar forms of prosecutorial misconduct involves using false evidence that leads to the dismissal of the alleged defendant. In rare cases, a prosecutor ignores or downplays evidence. In other cases, the prosecutor destroys the evidence from the defense counsel and creates false evidence. These actions from the prosecutor lead to the wrongful conviction of the defendant. With the fabricated evidence, the court will have the ability to convict the innocent person. Introducing false evidence is illegal in California. A prosecutor may introduce the evidence in the following situations:
Unfolded or untrue character evidence
Example: A criminal prosecutor is handling a case of DUI. The prosecutor requires the evidence from the police for them to have the defendant convicted. The law enforcement officer is ready to testify before the court the alleged defendant was driving while drunk. However, the prosecutor is aware the police officer is giving a false statement.
Instead of dismissing the false evidence from the police officer, the prosecutors use it to convict the defendant. Under this situation, the prosecutor will face a prosecutorial crime for using false evidence to convict the alleged defendant.
Relying on Unreliable Witnesses Improperly
Under the state's laws, prosecutors may engage in prosecution misconduct for basing their arguments on unreliable witnesses and using jailhouse informants (readily available to provide damaging evidence against the defendant). Remember, the jailhouse informant has nothing to lose by delivering the false evidence. Therefore, it's more likely for the informants to provide untrue information. If the informant's evidence is the basic evidence behind the criminal case, it is usually unreliable because it increases the chances of wrongful convictions.
Asserting Facts Without Evidence
Both the defense counsel and the prosecutor have a legal fury to provide evidence to support their facts. Therefore, the law considers prosecutorial misconduct to provide a fact without evidence. For instance, Jane faces a charge for robbery with violence. The prosecutor informs the judge that robbery crimes have greatly dropped in the area where Jane was arrested.
Indeed, the robbery offenses have significantly dropped. However, the prosecutor does not support their arguments. So, the prosecutor has engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by introducing facts not supported by evidence.
A prosecutor has several assertions or arguments that they should not make during a case trial. For instance, a California prosecutor cannot bring facts, not evidence. Therefore, the law considers the act prosecutorial misconduct. The misconduct usually occurs during the prosecutor's closing or opening arguments.
Improper Communication with the Juries and Judges
In California, the law restricts interaction between the judge, jury, and prosecutor. For Instance, it's against the law for the prosecutor to engage in the case discussion without defense counsel. Similarly, during the case trial, it is usually improper for the prosecution team or the judge in any manner about the case. Also, it is illegal or unethical for the lawyer or prosecutor to try to influence the jury or judge with improper inducement. When you notice the prosecutor has been consistently discussing your case with the judge when you are not involved, you must inform your attorney.
Failing to Report Any Case of Violation of the Rules of Professional Duties
Under California laws, the law requires the other bar members to report to the appropriate authorities when they become aware one lawyer has engaged in severe violation of professional rules. When the attorneys discover a case of prosecutorial misconduct and fail to report it, they also become a part of the case. All the involved parties in the court have the duty to ensure they do not engage in any activity that might result in prosecution misconduct.
Failure to Keep System of Compliance and Train Subordinates
The prosecutors with the managerial duties in the DA offices must develop systems in the appropriate offices and ensure the attorneys understand and comply with them. The prosecutors supervising the subordinates may not ratify or encourage prosecution misconduct but should make an effort to ensure the subordinates adhere to the ethical rules.
Interfering with the Alleged Defendants Right of Representation
Although prosecutors have authority, they are not neutral since they are against the defendant. Also, prosecutors are sophisticated. The repeat parties in the cases might be confusing and sometimes terrify the defendant. A prosecutor should not discourage a defendant from seeking counsel. When the defendant has a defense attorney, the prosecutor should also not speak with the defendant about their case when their attorneys are not around.
Improper Use of Media
Criminal cases should be handled in the criminal courts and not in the press. The California laws prohibit the prosecution team from conducting public communications, resulting in condemnation of the defendant. Apart from the details about the offense, many public communications about the accused constitute prosecution misconduct.
Discrimination During Judge Selection
Under California laws, prosecutors should not discriminate when choosing a jury. Therefore, a prosecutor has no authority to exclude a potential jury or judge from a case due to:
Other similar traits
For instance, Grace is a prosecutor on a murder case. The defendant in her case is a member of the African community. The victim of the case is a white American. During the selection of judges, Grace tries to exclude all African American judges. He strongly believes the African American judges would side with the alleged defendant and dismiss the case. So, he succeeds in excluding the African judges in the case. The Graces race determines the selection of the potential judges. Therefore Grace as a prosecutor would have committed prosecutorial misconduct.
Prosecutors may make an inflammatory comment during the case proceeding. These inflammatory comments will lead to prosecutorial misconduct. Inflammatory comments occur, especially when their comments appeal to the jury's passion or the comments are dramatic. For instance, the case may occur when the DA makes a "safe street comment." The comment indicates primary fear of an offense rather than focusing on the evidence.
The Remedies for the Alleged Defendant
When prosecutorial misconduct takes place, the defendant may have various possible remedies. The remedies include:
The criminal court judge may order for a new case trial
The criminal court judge ordered the prosecutor to disregard specific comments or evidence in the case
The judge may dismiss the defendant's charges
However, the criminal court judge will order the above only when the defense team presents a motion to request another fresh trial. As the defendant, you must file the motion before your case sentencing. You should know the remedies won't be applicable unless:
The defense counsel has objected to the prosecutorial misconduct.
The prosecutorial misconduct prejudiced you.
Prosecution misconduct cannot result in remedy unless the defendant prejudices it. It means the prosecution's misconduct has impacted the outcomes of your trial. The court will not grant the remedy when the prosecution misconduct occurs but does not affect the case economically. For instance, Marcos faced a trial for engaging in lewd behaviors with a minor. During the case proceeding, the prosecutor makes numerous improper arguments like:
Issuing inflammatory comments
Referring to facts that are not in the evidence
Expression of personal opinions
For example, Marcos's defense attorney records all the forms of prosecutorial misconduct. The criminal court judge instructs the juries to disregard these arguments. Later, Marcos is considered guilty for his actions. Under this case, the objection minimizes the chances of prejudicial impacts on the prosecutor's statement. Therefore the prosecution's misconduct would not be prejudicial, and the guilty verdict may be upheld.
Objection to Prosecution Misconduct
In many instances, the alleged defendant will not challenge the misconduct unless:
The defense counsel objected to the misconduct. The criminal court judges had instructed the prosecutor to disregard the evidence.
The instructions might have avoided or dismissed the need for the defendant's trial. Therefore, you need legal counsel from your criminal defense attorney when you think you are a victim of prosecution misconduct. Please do not wait until it's too late. The earlier you speak with your attorney, the higher the chances of winning and fighting for your rights
Not all Prosecutorial Misconduct Leads to Dismissal of Charges or a New Trial
Applying for harmless error doctrine may affirm the defendant's conviction even when prosecution misconduct occurred when the court believes the error did not have an impact on the outcome of your trial. However, only a small number of prosecutorial misconduct cases will go through this doctrine. The doctrine was designed to avoid case retrial for the small errors at the court.
The egregiousness of the prosecution's misconduct does not determine the degree of the error but whether the alleged defendant had a fair trial. Ut means severe prosecution misconduct might be considered harmless.
Can Defendant sue the Prosecutorial in a Civil Court?
As a defendant, you may sue the prosecutor when:
You sustained some damages
The prosecution team filed frivolous charges
For instance, A prosecutor's sister runs for politics. Unfortunately, she loses the seat. The prosecutor believes a businessman disrupted the campaigns for her sister. After some time, rumors spread all over, alleging the businessman beat her wife. The prosecutor decides to charge the man with spousal abuse and domestic violence out of anger and revenge.
The prosecutor keeps the case. The state soon started investigating the businessman for several days, if not months. During the case investigation, the businessman notices a great drop in their business and suffers thousands of dollars in legal fees. The state decides to drop the case after discovering no evidence of abuse or violence in the case. In this situation, the businessman may file a case against the prosecution team for their prosecution. After filing the civil case and the court finding the prosecutor guilty, the businessman will receive their compensation suffered due to the case.
Appeals and Prosecution Misconduct in California
Although it is not easy to prove the existence of prosecution misconduct in a given case, misconduct indeed occurs in several cases. When you believe you have reliable and valid evidence about the occurrence of the misconduct and your friend has faced a wrongful conviction, you need to seek legal help right away. You can use evidence as to the ground of your case. For instance, the evidence might include relying on untruthful witnesses, improper manipulation of evidence, and prosecutors basing their arguments on their opinions.
The above evidence might be reviewed at a civil court, courts of appeal, and supreme court. The possibility of the case will be the court overturning and dismissing the case. However, it might be challenging to go through the legal steps alone. That's why you require legal help from a competent attorney. Remember, the attorney you choose will determine the outcomes of your case. So, a well-trained and experienced attorney is highly recommended. Collect evidence and discuss everything about your situation with the attorney.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Near Me
An arrest and conviction might occur at any time, even when you least expect it. The jail time and the heavy fines are something of concern. The conviction will also come with a criminal record in your criminal history. So seeking a job in the future will be challenging. However, do you know that your conviction might be a result of prosecutorial misconduct? Also, do you know when you were convicted because of the prosecution misconduct you can appeal and fight the charges? But, you require the services of a competent attorney.
At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we are here to protect your rights, determine the best way to proceed with your case, and limit the potentially high penalties. Therefore, when you believe your conviction results from prosecutorial misconduct in Los Angeles, CA, call us as soon as possible. You can contact us at 310-564-2605 for a free case evaluation.