The Justice Department is protesting that a USA Today story last week about federal prosecutor misconduct “is misleading in several fundamental respects and fails to honor the exemplary service” of prosecutors. In a story summarized in Crime & Justice news, USA Today found 201 criminal cases since 1997 in which judges determined that federal prosecutors violated laws or ethics rules.
In a letter to the newspaper, Gary Grindler, acting deputy attorney general, said that the number of cases “is minuscule when put in the proper context.” During the years in question, there were 720,000 cases and 1 million defendants, “which means that even if each of the 201 identified cases actually involved prosecutorial misconduct, the study would be highlighting a ratio of only 1 in 3,600 cases,” Grindler says. He noted that the list of 201 cases included some from well before 1998, and these cases include instances of attorney error. While we strive to avoid errors, they are a far cry from intentional misconduct. Grindler accused USA Today of giving “short shrift to the department’s new rigorous and comprehensive training curriculum.”