“[A] prosecutor has a duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction… [While he] may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones.”– Berger v. United States
As the most influential persons in the criminal justice system, prosecutors play a major role in avoiding wrongful convictions:
- Assure that newly proposed laws contain clear-cut definitions and meet mens rea requirements.
- Encourage investigators and detectives to conduct their investigations in an impartial and fair manner, and avoid “always believe the victim” biases.
- Avoid the practice of over-charging and use of collateral charges as tactics to compel the defendant to agree to a plea agreement.
- Implement an open-file discovery policy to assure all relevant evidence is made available to defense attorneys.
- Avoid reliance on jailhouse informants and other witnesses who have incentives to misrepresent the truth.
- Adhere to relevant ethical standards of the American Bar Association and state bar associations.
- Encourage ethical practice among other prosecutors and report cases of prosecutorial misconduct to the appropriate oversight body.
For more information, see the CPI White Paper, Roadmap for Prosecutor Reform.