Police & Prosecutor Misconduct Contributed To False-Convictions

Criminal Defense attorney Justin Friedman, who has investigated claims for the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and filed petitions for executive pardons and sentence commutations, discusses the types of police and prosecutor misconduct revealed by a recent study.

Good Morning. I am Justin Friedman, an attorney with Friedman & Ranzenhofer, PC.

Welcome to the September 22nd, 2020 edition of the Legal Survival Channel: Today’s Legal News You Can Use.

The National Registry of Exonerations released a report earlier this month showing that Police and prosecutor misconduct  contributed to 54% of false convictions that later resulted in exonerations

An exoneration occurs after conviction of a crime following a finding of factual innocence. Exoneration can come in the form of a complete pardon, an acquittal after retrial, or a dismissal of all charges by a court or a prosecutor.

Misconduct included:

  • Witness tampering, in which a witness is tricked or persuaded to give false testimony or make an identification;
  • Violence, lying and coercive conduct during interrogations;
  • Fabricating evidence, including planting drugs and committing forensic fraud;
  • Concealing exculpatory evidence; and
  • Lying by both prosecutors and police during trial.

The study also revealed several major patterns:

  • Misconduct was committed by police officers in 35% of cases, by prosecutors in 30% of cases, by forensic analysts in 3% of cases, and by child welfare workers in 2% of cases.
  • More severe crimes involved higher rates of misconduct. The rate of misconduct was 72% in murder cases compared to 32% for most nonviolent crimes.
  • Black exonerees were more likely than whites to have been victims of misconduct (57% to 52%) but that gap grew when the exoneration was for a murder (78% to 64%); cases with death sentences (87% to 68%); and drug cases (47% to 22%).
  • Prosecutors and police officers committed misconduct at about the same rate in state court cases. In federal exonerations, however, prosecutorial misconduct occurred more than twice as often as police misconduct, and seven times as often for white-collar crimes.
  • Concealing exculpatory evidence was found to be the most common form of official misconduct, occurring 44% of exonerations.

It is important to note that this is only a measure of misconduct in exoneration cases—not a reflection of the amount of misconduct that occurs in all cases.  The natural conclusion is that there many false convictions that have yet to be discovered.

Contact the criminal defense attorneys at Friedman & Ranzenhofer PC if you are facing criminal charges.

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