An internal affairs office at the Justice Department has found that over the last 10 years hundreds of federal prosecutors and other employees have violated rules, laws, and ethical standards.  The violations include:

  • Misleading the court.
  • Withholding exculpatory evidence.
  • Abusing prosecutorial and investigative power.
  • Violating Constitutional rights.

From 2002 to 2013, the Justice Dept.’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) documented 650 infractions.  In 400 (the majority) of the incidents, the OPR categorized the violations as being severe, reckless, and/or intentional, not error or poor judgement.

As a general practice, the Justice Dept. does not make public the names of attorneys who commit prosecutorial misconduct nor the defendants who were affected.  The result is that the department is insulated from meaningful scrutiny or accountability.  During the 1990s, the Justice Dept. promised to make public the names of offenders affected, but over the years, the department didn’t live up to its policy promises and in the early 2000s, they went back to their less transparent policy.

Below is an entire accounting of the OPR data:

  • 48 allegations that federal prosecutors misled the court, including intentional violations.
  • 29 allegations that federal prosecutors failed to provide exculpatory evidence to defendants including 1 instance that was intentional.
  • 13 allegations that personnel violated the constitutional or civil rights.
  • 4 allegations of abuse of authority or general prosecutorial misconduct, including 3 instances that were intentional.
  • 3 allegations that prosecutors abused the grand jury or indictment process.
  • 1 allegation of overzealous prosecution.

EXAMPLES OF MISCONDUCT:

  • A prosecutor failed to provide information to the defense that could have been used to counter a key prosecution witness.  The attorney failed to disclose that another witness implicated the key prosecution witness as the perpetrator.  (The attorney was suspended for 10 days.)
  • A prosecutor developed a close personal relationship with a defendant, had numerous contacts with the defendant without consent of their lawyer, and without telling his supervisors he negotiated a plea deal permitting the release of the defendant.
  • A prosecutor was assigned to a case with 15 months remaining under the statute of limitations.  He allowed the time limit to expire without filing charges or alerting his supervisors of the deadline.  (They were given a letter of admonishment.)
  • An immigration judge (immigration courts are part of the Justice Dept.) made disparaging remarks about foreign nationals, showed clear bias, and violated procedural standards in cases where defendants contested the proceedings (fought to stay in the U.S.).  (The judge was given 30 days suspension.)
  • A prosecutor failed to timely disclose to the defense that there was a tape recording of the crime despite the defense repeatedly requesting the information.  They also falsely told the court that they had no evidence that their key witness had a mental illness. (The attorney received a 14 day suspension.)
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