It’s a misconception that prosecutors take the job just to put people behind bars, writes Lara Bazelon of Loyola Law School, a former public defender, in Politico magazine. Bad apples are a minority whose misdeeds attract a disproportionate share of media attention. The vast majority of prosecutors go into this line of work to ensure that people get justice. In a growing number of cases, that means helping to free wrongly convicted felons, Bazelon says. Last year, 125 men and women were released from prison because they were wrongfully convicted, says the National Registry of Exonerations. It’s record number for one year. More than half of these cases—67— were overturned because of prosecutors who either cooperated or led the charge to set the record straight and ensure that justice was done.
Says Bazelon, “We should call out bad prosecutors and punish their misconduct, of course. Just as importantly, we should make sure that honorable prosecutors get the attention and respect they deserve.” She cites Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, who helped to free seven people in six months, and A.M. Marty Shroud, wrote a “remarkable open letter” to a Louisiana newspaper demanding that African-American Glen Ford “be completely compensated to every extent possible because of the flaws in a system that effectively destroyed his life.” Ford, an innocent man, was convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white jury for the 1983 murder of a white businessman. He spent more than 30 years awaiting execution before the truth finally emerged and he was released last year.