Police or Prosecutor Misconduct Is at Root of Half of Exoneration Case
Our New York malicious prosecution lawyers who handle wrongful conviction cases know that that those facing criminal charges have historically been at an unfair advantage. Too often police and prosecutors misconduct in failing to disclose exculpatory evidence, tainting evidence and in fabricating evidence have resulted in many people being wrongfully convicted. Official misconduct damages truth-seeking by our criminal justice system and undermines public confidence. It steals years — sometimes decades — from the lives of innocent people.
Wrongly convicted Black defendants were slightly more likely than whites to be victims of misconduct, especially in drug and murder investigations. The Central Park five case is a classic example. These five men were wrongfully convicted as teenagers of raping a jogger in Central Park in 1989. A new report found men and Black exonerees “were modestly more likely to experience misconduct.” Official misconduct played a role in the criminal convictions of more than half of innocent people who were later exonerated, according to a new report by a registry that tracks wrongful convictions.
According to the report, by the National Registry of Exonerations, official misconduct contributed to false convictions in 54 percent of exonerations, usually with more than one type of misconduct. Overall, men and Black exonerees “were modestly more likely to experience misconduct,” although there were larger differences by race when it came to drug crimes and murder. The report comes at a time of reckoning for the American criminal justice system as nationwide civil unrest against racism and police brutality continue.
The study, which is based on 2,400 exonerations recorded in the registry from 1989 until early 2019, found that prosecutors and police officers committed misconduct at comparable rates (30 percent and 34 percent). In federal cases, however, prosecutors “committed misconduct more than twice as often as police,” especially in federal white-collar cases in which they “committed misconduct seven times as often as police,” according to the report.
Nearly all of the official misconduct identified falls into five general categories: witness tampering, misconduct in interrogations, fabricating evidence, concealing exculpatory evidence and misconduct at trial. The study found that exonerated Black defendants “were slightly more likely than white defendants to be victims of official misconduct,” by a margin of 57 percent to 52 percent. The disparity grew when it came to drug crimes (47 percent to 22 percent) and for murder cases, (78 percent to 64 percent). In exonerations involving death sentences, there was misconduct in 87 percent of the cases involving Black defendants compared with 68 percent for white defendants.
The new report follows a 2017 study by the registry that found that Black people were more likely to be wrongfully convicted than their white counterparts, and more likely to spend more time in prison before being exonerated.
This not only reduced trust in the criminal justice system overall, but also reduced reliance on the system for ensuring and enhancing public safety and as a solution for crime. The most important test of our criminal justice system is when the system fails that test by convicting someone who is innocent, police and prosecutors are often implicated in that failure.
Prosecutors need to see themselves as part of a system that does justice, not as unilaterally responsible for convicting those who they perceive to be guilty.
While nothin can give an innocent person who spent time in prison their life back, both New York and federal law provide laws that allow exonerees to sue for monetary compensation. Our New York wrongful incarceration lawyers have represented numerous exonerees successfully. New York law allows exonerees to submit a claim for compensation for being wrongfully convicted. Also Exonerees can sue for malicious prosecution and violations of due process for fabrication of evidence and withholding of evidence which violates the right to a fair trial. If you are an exoneree in New York who was incarcerated for a crime you did not commit, call our New York malicious prosecution lawyers for a free consultation.