California courts last year found that Los Angeles County prosecutors withheld evidence, intentionally misled jurors, or committed other types of misconduct in 31 criminal cases, says an Innocence Project report quoted by the Los Angeles Times. The decisions involved convictions dating back as far as 1984 and were among 102 California cases in which the group found that courts identified prosecutorial misconduct. In 26 of the cases, courts cited the misconduct in decisions to order a new trial, set aside a sentence,or bar evidence, said the Northern California Innocence Project, based at the Santa Clara University School of Law. The study is part of an effort by the Innocence Project to highlight the scope and effects of prosecutorial misconduct, which the group says has led to wrongful convictions and costly retrials.
The project has called for greater transparency in how government agencies respond to such cases and has urged the State Bar of California, which investigates claims of attorney wrongdoing, to examine all prosecutorial misconduct findings. Judges are not required to report cases to the bar if they decide the misconduct was harmless. “What we want is scrutiny,” said Maurice Possley, a visiting fellow at the Innocence Project. “If they’re not getting the cases or looking at the cases, that sends a message that this sort of behavior is tolerated or acceptable.”