As Americans, we would like to believe that the criminal justice system works as it's intended. We envision a process which allows prosecutors to present their evidence, defense attorneys to have the opportunity to refute it, and that the correct and just verdict is delivered by a judge or jury.
But when prosecutorial misconduct occurs, it throws the integrity of the entire system into question. Everyone should agree on that. But apparently, many prosecutors don't feel they should be subject to the law like suspects, judges, and defense attorneys are.
This attitude is illustrated in a piece written by Radley Balko, a respected civil liberties journalist. He noted the reactions of prosecutors in a couple states who are protesting statements by judges who have expressed their concerns about prosecutorial misconduct.
Last year, South Carolina State Supreme Court Justice Donald Beatty commented on two prosuectors in one court district who had been suspended for prosecutorial misconduct. Beatty told a state convention audience, "The court will no longer overlook unethical conduct, such as witness tampering, selective and retaliatory prosecutions, perjury and suppression of evidence. You better follow the rules or we are coming after you and will make an example." How did prosecutors respond? More than a dozen top prosecutors in South Carolina's judicial districts, along with state district attorney Alan Wilson, are calling for Beatty to recuse himself from criminal cases.
This isn't an isolated case. The Arizona Supreme Court recently recommended that prosecutors in that state proactively disclose evidence of a wrongful conviction and investigate it accordingly. No one wants wrongful convictions, right? But William Montgomery, the top prosecutor in Maricopa County (where Phoenix is located), opposed the rule because there have been no credible wrongful conviction cases in the state. Even if that's true, why oppose the rule?
This attitude of resistance from prosecutors is troubling. It implies that they feel like they shouldn't be governed by pesky hindrances like laws or transparency. Are these really the people that Americans want to protect their rights?