Our criminal justice system suffers from an epidemic of wrongful convictions which come to us compliments of dirty cops and dirty prosecutors. Misconduct by law enforcement is usually at play when innocent men and women are convicted of crimes they didn't commit.
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, last year, there was an unprecedented record of 84 exonerations due to official misconduct on the part of prosecutors, cops, and government employees. The figure amounts to 60 percent of the total exonerations for 2017.
Now, if 84 people were exonerated, just think for a minute how many hundreds, possibly thousands, have actually been affected by prosecutorial misconduct – not just those on death row who are proven innocent, but also those who have pled guilty to something that they didn't do due to a rigged system and have already served their time and are out. There is no concerted effort to clear these people's names.
Justice in the U.S. is all about power play. Prosecutors know they will most certainly never be held accountable for their actions when they conceal evidence or coerce confessions out of defenseless, terrified arrestees.
We live in a state of prosecutorial immunity. Do you want to know how many prosecutors were sent to jail last year for ruining an innocent person's life? Zero. That's right. They are virtually immune. They know it and, they behave accordingly.
Currently-retired judge Frederic Block couldn´t have put it more eloquently, “Police officers do not have [legal immunity] and they are held accountable in courts of law for their egregious behavior. We wisely do not give our law enforcement officers, or even the President, carte blanche to do as they please; bad prosecutors should similarly be accountable.”
Because I know these people well, I know reform will not happen overnight. But now that California is making prosecutorial misconduct into a felony, punishable with prison time, there is a tiny ray of hope. New York is also hopping on the new trend, as Governor Cuomo has just signed an act that creates a commission to investigate wrongdoing by prosecutors.
From using for-hire jail snitches to making evidence disappear mysteriously, New York's prosecutors know all the tricks of the trade, just as well as California's.
“Our criminal justice system must fairly convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent,” Cuomo said upon the announcement of the Commission's inception, “When any prosecutor consciously disregards that fundamental duty, communities suffer and lose faith in the system, and they must have a forum to be heard and seek justice. This first-in-the-nation Commission will serve to give New Yorkers comfort that there is a system of checks and balances in the criminal justice system, and to root out any potential abuses of power to ensure that our justice system is just for all New Yorkers.”
The new legislation creates a commission made up of 11 state officials, from all branches of government. They are in charge of investigating misconduct by every prosecutor in New York.
While California's approach seems more radical, it remains to be seen whether either state will be able to fight the scourge of dishonest prosecutors and their disregard for constitutional rights.