Will Prosecutor Misconduct Become Harder to Catch?

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The dismissed case against Nevada cattleman Cliven Bundy is a dramatic example of prosecutorial misconduct, which some legal experts see as a cultural flaw in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors are arguably the most powerful actors in the system, in part because they are the gatekeepers for most evidence in a case. Having to provide evidence to a defendant while also seeking to beat them in court understandably can lead to temptation, reports the Christian Science Monitor. U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro tossed the case, which related to a 2014 standoff with federal officers seeking to impound Bundy’s cattle, saying that “a universal sense of justice has been violated” by prosecutors who withheld and misrepresented vast quantities of evidence.

Prosecutors are rarely formally punished for misconduct. As technological advances continue to expand the government’s investigative resources, some experts fear prosecutorial misconduct could become more prevalent and harder to catch. A former U.S. Attorney called cases like Bundy’s a “rare event” and a former federal judge calls the phenomenon an “epidemic.” There are high-profile examples like Bundy and the flawed prosecutions of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and members of the Duke University lacrosse team. Beyond that, 42 percent of the 166 exonerations in 2016 were a result of official misconduct, says the National Registry of Exonerations.

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