Responding to an Innocence Project report on lax discipline of prosecutors who commit misconduct, the California State Bar Association is reviewing the records of 130 prosecutors named in the report for possible disciplinary action, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The probe follows a report by Northern California Innocence Project at the Santa Clara University School of Law that 600 prosecutors have committed misconduct ranging from small technical mistakes to unfair and deceptive tactics to win cases, such as hiding evidence. The study analyzed about 4,000 appellate court rulings from 1997 through 2009.
The Mercury News published its own investigation of the Santa Clara County criminal justice system, concluding that a dramatic number of cases were infected with errors by defense attorneys, judges and prosecutors. Scott Thorpe, director of the California District Attorneys Association, said the Innocence Project study exaggerated the problem of prosecutorial misconduct. The study acknowledges that only 130 of the 600 prosecutors were deemed by the appellate courts to have committed “harmful error” — that is, to have done something that altered the fundamental fairness of the trial, prompting the court to set aside convictions or sentences, declare mistrials or bar evidence.