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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Prosecutorial Misconduct Goes Unpunished in California, Study Finds

Posted By on Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:15 PM

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Ethical lapses and abuses of power by prosecutors in California rarely bring consequences for the lawyers involved, according to a study published yesterday by the Northern California Innocence Project.

The study, which surveyed more than 700 cases of identified prosecutorial misconduct from 1997 to 2009, found that in only six cases were prosecutors disciplined. The state bar association, as well as judges and district attorneys' offices, are failing to hold misbehaving prosecutors to account, the report concludes.

"Essentially, there's nothing in our system that's set up to deter

misconduct," Kathleen

Ridolfi, one of the study's authors, said in an interview with SF

Weekly.

While prosecutors often defend their conduct by pointing out that instances of misconduct are relatively low compared to the thousands of criminal cases handled by DAs' offices annually, Ridolfi noted that only 3 percent of cases proceed to trial -- meaning that misconduct in the majority of cases that do not go to trial has not been accounted for. (The 707 cases she and co-author Maurice Possley identified were those in which prosecutorial misconduct was raised as an issue in appellate courts.)

One of the more disturbing findings, Ridolfi said, is that "recidivist prosecutors" who repeatedly abuse their power go unpunished. "There is a core number of prosecutors across the state who appear to commit misconduct in many different ways," she said.

Photo   |   Rafael Marquez

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Peter Jamison

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