Key Facts

Prosecutors play a preeminent role in America’s criminal justice system. While most prosecutors are ethical, a variety of factors can induce prosecutors to act in unethical ways.

Fact #1: Since 1989, there have been over 2,500 documented cases of persons who have been convicted and later exonerated (1).

Fact #2: An estimated 43% of wrongful convictions arise from misconduct involving prosecutors, police, investigators, and other officials (1).

Fact #3: More than 90% of criminal cases are adjudicated during closed-door plea-bargain negotiations. These cases have little or no public accountability (2).

Fact #4: The following are the most common types of ethical violations committed by prosecutors (3):

  • Failure to disclose exculpatory evidence (Brady violation)
  • Use of inadmissible or false evidence/lack of candor to the court
  • Plea bargain offense
  • Inflammatory statements/witness harassment
  • Mischaracterizing the evidence
  • Vouching

Fact #5: Fewer than 2% of cases of prosecutor misconduct are subject to public sanctions. When sanctions are imposed, they are often slight (4).

Fact #6: Americans are concerned about the fairness of our criminal justice system (5).


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