Texas Prosecutors: Misconduct Allegations are Overblown…

From Mercurynews.com:

DALLAS—Despite the recent attention paid to wrongful convictions and the behavior of prosecutors, the state group of district attorneys says most claims of prosecutor misconduct are overblown.

The Texas District & County Attorneys Association released a report this week that acknowledges a handful of cases in which prosecutors may have mishandled their duties, but questions other allegations of misconduct. The report, issued Monday, responds in part to a study earlier this year by the Northern California Innocence Project, which reported 91 cases over four years of alleged prosecutorial error or misconduct.

The TDCAA’s report accuses the regional Innocence Project group of pointing to many cases where no error or minor errors occurred.

The report says only six of those cases raise “serious questions.” Among them is the case of Anthony Graves, who served 18 years in prison for the fatal stabbings of six people. A federal appeals court ruled prosecutors withheld evidence and elicited false testimony. Graves was released from prison two years ago.

The list doesn’t include Michael Morton, the Central Texas man who spent nearly a quarter-century in prison before DNA testing exonerated him of killing his wife. Morton was released last year. The prosecutor in that case, Ken Anderson, now faces a “court of inquiry,” a proceeding to determine whether he acted properly. His successor as Williamson County District Attorney, John Bradley lost a primary this year for re-election after a campaign largely centered on Morton’s case.

The report, which acknowledges the effects of the Morton case elsewhere, says there is no epidemic of misconduct.

“Instead of demonstrating an epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct … a detailed review of the Texas cases selected by the Innocence Project shows that true prosecutorial misconduct deserving of sanction is an extraordinarily rare phenomenon,” the report said.

Cookie Ridolfi, director of the Northern California Innocence Project, said her group’s report was being unfairly maligned and that it distinguishes between different kinds of mistakes. She said most prosecutors act fairly, but their work deserves scrutiny.

“The reason why this is even happening is because prosecutors have not been unfairly criticized,” Ridolfi said. “In fact, their conduct has been unjustly ignored until now. I don’t see them as victims in this.”

The TDCAA report opposes doing away with the immunity that prosecutors currently have from lawsuits related to how they handle cases. The group says prosecutors who act wrongfully in a case can be sanctioned by the case judge or in other ways besides being sued in civil court.

“If you give everybody the ability to sue the prosecutor back in every case, you’ve got a big problem,” said Rob Kepple, the state association’s executive director.

The report suggests more training for law enforcement and new attorneys on ethics and turning over evidence. It also suggests more information be made available on how the Texas State Bar disciplines prosecutors.

“Every so often, it does pop up and rear its ugly head,” said Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon on the issue of misconduct by prosecutors. “We as prosecutors have to deal with it, and so do courts, and so does the public.”


3 responses to “Texas Prosecutors: Misconduct Allegations are Overblown…

  1. Prosecutors should not squash a VETERAN’S Mental Illness since 1972. nor the effects and risks of taking medications prescribed by his physic. over a 18 year of time. How about speaking truth and about the charge at hand, not how were children raised 25 years ago. There for wrongful conviction. Burnet county case #40748 Aug.12th and 13th, 2013

  2. The misconduct allegations are not overblown, when innocent men and women have spent decades condemned to your prison hellholes, and there are over 2.4 million adults in the U.S. prisons, #1 jailer in the world. When innocent people have been executed in Texas – official misconduct is NOT overblown. Time to end the death penalty which has been the politicians tool for re-election and $$$’s for the “system”.

  3. Time to free Hannah Overton. Texas. Her conviction was overturned.

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