ACLU Report Says Most NJ Prosecutorial Misconduct Goes Unpunished


In a study of prosecutorial misconduct in New Jersey, the American Civil Liberties Union found that while egregious problems are rare, the assistant prosecutors found to have multiple violations never faced discipline by an ethics board or the state Attorney General's office, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. Examples: During one trial, a prosecutor accused a defense attorney of wasting the jury's time, and making “sarcastic, caustic and demeaning remarks.” Another prosecutor committed six errors in five years, with two of those mistakes resulting in reversals. A third prosecutor committed three errors at separate trials, resulting in one reversal.

Of the 570 allegations of prosecutorial misconduct studied during a period from 2005 to 2011, the report found 229 instances where errors were committed, including 53 guilty verdicts that were overturned by an appellate panel at least in part because of prosecutorial mistakes. Another 17 guilty verdicts were reversed without determining error. In 267 cases, allegations of error were unfounded and the lower court ruling was upheld. Accountability, the report concluded, was severely lacking. While assistant prosecutors may have faced either informal consequences like a “transfer, suspension or firing, no ethical sanctions have been handed down as a result of prosecutorial error, even in cases of repeated or egregious errors.”

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