Little Punishment Found for Misbehaving New York Prosecutors


Repeated abuses by a former Queens, N.Y., prosecutor helps show that New York State’s system of attorney oversight is ill-equipped or unwilling to identify, punish, and deter prosecutors who abuse their authority, reports ProPublica. An analysis of more than a decade’s worth of state and federal court rulings found more than two dozen instances in which judges explicitly concluded that city prosecutors had committed harmful misconduct. Each time, the abuses were sufficient to throw out convictions. Yet the same appellate courts did not routinely refer prosecutors for investigation by the state committees charged with policing lawyers. Disciplinary committees, an arm of the appellate courts, almost never took serious action against prosecutors. None of the prosecutors who oversaw cases reversed based on misconduct were disbarred, suspended, or censured except for the Queens case. The damage from prosecutorial misconduct can be devastating, not only allowing guilty people to go free, but also putting innocents behind bars. In 10 cases identified by ProPublica, defendants convicted at least in part because of a prosecutor’s abuse were ultimately exonerated, often after years in prison.

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