Press Release: Center for Prosecutor Integrity Calls on Prosecutors to Root out Misconduct After AZ Report of Widespread Unethical Practices

WASHINGTON / November  6, 2013 – Following revelations that 22% of death sentence cases in Arizona involve judicial findings of impropriety, the Center forProsecutor Integrity is calling on prosecutors nationwide to take a proactive approach to hold unethical prosecutors accountable and restore public confidence in the criminal justice system.

The finding of widespread prosecutor misbehavior is based on a review of all death sentence convictions in Arizona in the past decade. These sentences are routinely seen by the state Supreme Court. Since 2002, there have been 82 death sentence cases reviewed by the state high court. In 18 of the cases – 22% of the total — the Supreme Court made a finding of impropriety.

Examples of unethical practice include presenting false testimony, resorting to emotional appeals in closing arguments, referring to mitigating evidence as “excuses,” and removing a jacket worn by a victim from a plastic evidence bag for the jury’s “smelling pleasure.”

The cases were assembled in an online database as part of a four-part investigative report by Michael Kiefer of the Arizona Republic newspaper:

The Arizona study is important because previous analyses of prosecutorial misconduct focused on cases that were pre-selected based on defense counsel’s allegation of misconduct or a judicial determination of a wrongful conviction. The Arizona findings likely underestimate the true extent of wrong-doing because the most egregious cases of misconduct triggered a mistrial or led to a last-minute plea deal not carrying a death sentence.

“In the past, some prosecutors have insisted that unethical conduct is so rare that it doesn’t even deserve attention,” notes CPI spokesperson Sheryl Hutter. “But when a high court concludes more than one in five cases involve impropriety, taxpayers should be demanding accountability and lawmakers should be convening hearings.”

The CPI report, An Epidemic of Prosecutor Misconduct, concludes unethical conduct has become widespread throughout the country:

The Center for Prosecutor Integrity is working to preserve the presumption of innocence, assure equal treatment under law, and bring an end to wrongful conviction through the enhancement of prosecutorial ethics.

6 responses to “Press Release: Center for Prosecutor Integrity Calls on Prosecutors to Root out Misconduct After AZ Report of Widespread Unethical Practices

  1. Mr. Locke, Outstanding article. The harsh spotlight is finally shining brightly on Arizona’s injustice system and who drives the creation of felony cases, draconian mandatory minimum sentencing used as a weapon for “easy” convictions — which allows for media and political witch-hunts, rush-to-judgement and wrongful convictions In Arizona. It’s time the lid of Arizona’s Pandora’s Box of horrors is finally ripped open. Voices silenced for decades and defacto-life sentences, behind the prison walls is unacceptable, immoral and unethical.

  2. AZ MCAO Bill Montgomery Opposes Ethics Rule Requiring Prosecutors to Reveal Evidence of Wrongful Convictions

  3. Pingback: 22% Of AZ Death Sentences Have Impropriety |

  4. A Prosecutor Is Punished –

    “Mr. Anderson, who later became a judge, has said he did not consider the judge’s order official because it was not written down. But he was fully aware of his ethical duty to disclose important exculpatory evidence and that a failure to disclose violates due process rights under the Constitution. In April, a judicial investigation found probable cause to believe that Mr. Anderson was in criminal contempt for withholding the documents. On Friday, he pleaded no contest. In addition to receiving the jail sentence, he was disbarred and stripped of his law license.

    This case may sound extreme, but prosecutorial misconduct is far too common, and the remedies for it, if any, usually come long after the harm has been done. Criminal defense lawyers have called for judges to issue a standard written order reminding prosecutors of their ethical duty and to warn them of contempt charges if they do not comply. Prosecutors should welcome this practice to reinforce professional standards and identify the wrongdoers among them.”

  5. Terrific Opinion Editorial By Kansas City Star on Culture of Prosecutorial Misconduct in Missouri | The Open File

  6. In addition to receiving the jail sentence, he was disbarred and stripped of his law license.

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