Why Prosecutors Don’t Face Consequences for Being Overly Aggressive
When prosecutors abuse their authority, the damage can be devastating, as guilty people may go free while innocent people wind up behind bars. Prosecutors have the duty to uphold justice and the obligation to disclose potentially important evidence to defense lawyers. If they don’t, innocent defendants can be convicted.
Making the situation worse, according to an article in ProPublica, prosecutors who withhold evidence, tolerate false testimony or commit other abuses almost never see their careers damaged. Most of the time, no one prosecutes prosecutors who abuse their authority. In Illinois, as in other states, the system to oversee attorneys is ill-equipped or unwilling to identify, punish and deter abusive prosecutors.
If you have been arrested and accused of a crime in Illinois, you should be aware of the problems that can occur with prosecutors. They may directly affect your defense case and should be discussed with the attorney who is helping you fight for freedom.
The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., understand the seriousness of your situation and offer aggressive representation for clients facing criminal charges. We know how prosecutors operate, and we will do everything possible to vigorously fight for you and defend your rights against overzealous prosecutors.
We offer a free initial consultation. If you have been accused of any criminal charges, get help today by calling 630-305-0222.
Findings on Prosecutor Abuse
ProPublica examined the years 2001 to 2011, scrutinizing instances where state or federal courts identified misconduct serious enough to throw out a conviction and civil cases which resulted in financial awards being given to the victims of such misconduct. Of the 30 cases that met those criteria, only one prosecutor was seriously disciplined for misconduct.
The study found that state appellate courts, supposedly the first check on misconduct allegations, let convictions stand as long as they believed the misconduct did not decide the outcome of the case. This practice allows prosecutorial misconduct to worsen and has a negative effect on the entire criminal system. In addition, it is against the law.
What the Brady Rule Says
In the case of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), the United States Supreme Court held that “the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.” This is known as the Brady rule, and it means prosecutors must disclose any evidence that is material to either the guilt of the defendant or the severity of the alleged crime, including information that is favorable to the defendant.
Unfortunately, sometimes prosecutors do not adhere to this standard. They act unethically – withholding evidence, confusing juries or avoiding legal arguments in order to obtain a conviction.
Prosecutorial Misconduct in Illinois
An example of prosecutorial misconduct in Illinois occurred in People v. Mpulamasaka.
The defendant was charged with sexually assaulting a woman, but he claimed that the sexual encounter was consensual. In the closing arguments, the state’s attorney used several tactics to invoke an emotional response from the jury, including sitting in the witness stand and talking about the courage of the alleged victim.
The appellate court called this conduct “troubling,” as it amounted to vouching for the woman’s story, which is barred by ethical rules. The court determined the unethical prosecutorial conduct caused the defendant to be convicted, and reversed the jury’s guilty verdict.
Another example is the case of Illinois chief felony prosecutor Michael Mermal, who didn’t always fully consider the evidence in seeking convictions. As a result, Jerry Hobbs spent five years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him and two other men. Mermal has tried to re-prosecute these individuals even after they were cleared by DNA evidence.
Prosecutors may commit misconduct by tactics which include:
- Making arguments or statements or drawing attention to irrelevant issues with the intent of confusing the jury
- Appealing to emotion rather than logic, such as calling the defendant a “predator”
- Misstating expert testimony or improperly questioning an expert’s reputation
- Failing to examine whether they charged the right culprit, even if there is new information pointing to innocence
- Falsely accusing defense counsel of trying to confuse the jury or acting unethically.
Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. for a Free Consultation
When you are accused of a crime in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can find to protect you against prosecutorial abuse. Your case may seem impossible, but with skillful representation you have a chance. Remember, prosecutors are required to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and there are limits on how far they can go to prove a case. If a prosecutor commits misconduct, it may be grounds to have your conviction vacated.
The criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances. We know the judges and the court system and will aggressively explore every avenue for your defense. We examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available, and work hand in hand with our clients throughout the criminal process. We explain all elements and processes of the case and craft an effective defense strategy. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties and rights.
Don’t delay — contact us for help today at 630-305-0222 if you have been accused of any criminal charges. We represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, Illinois. There is no charge for initial consultations.