Prosecutors, like all lawyers, are bound by certain professional rules. Further, as government actors charged with “seeking justice,” in some ways, prosecutors are held to an even higher standard. If a prosecutor purposefully or even unintentionally violates the rules, it can call a conviction into question. Most often, these claims are raised through a petition for writ of habeas corpus. At the Los Angeles criminal appeals law firm of Power Trial Lawyers, Attorney Matthew Barhoma and his team of lawyers aggressively fight to reverse convictions and sentencings that were the product of prosecutorial misconduct.What Are a Prosecutor’s Duties?
A prosecutor is an attorney who works for the state and is responsible for investigating, preparing and litigating a case against a defendant suspected of violating the law. The prosecutor's “client” is all of society—including the victim, the defendant, and future defendants. Thus, the prosecutor’s role is unique, to say the least.
Simply put, a prosecutor’s role is to seek justice. In many cases, this means aggressively pursuing a conviction, using all the available evidence. However, in certain situations, a prosecutor’s duties require they do something other than seeking a conviction at all costs.
For example, the California Rules of Professional Conduct provide specific rules for prosecutors. Under these rules, a prosecutor shall:
- Not prosecute a case the prosecutor knows is unsupported by probable cause;
- Ensure that the accused is advised of their rights, including the right to counsel;
- Disclose all evidence that is favorable to the defense in a timely fashion; and
- Seek to remedy a conviction for which the prosecutor knows a defendant did not commit.
In other words, a prosecutor’s job is to pursue the truth, not to pursue a conviction. However, given the realities of working in a prosecutor’s office, district attorneys occasionally fall prey to the inherent pressures of “winning,” which, to most prosecuting agencies, means obtaining a conviction.Examples of Prosecutorial Misconduct
Prosecutorial misconduct can occur at any stage of a case, starting from before charges are filed all way until decades after a criminal conviction. While there are many ways that prosecutors can engage in misconduct, some of the most common instances of prosecutorial misconduct include the following:
- Ignoring evidence suggesting someone other than the potential defendant committed the crime;
- Coaching or coercing witnesses to make an unfavorable statement against the accused;
- Failing to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense;
- Making improper arguments to the jury;
- Presenting evidence, the prosecutor knows to be false;
- Discriminating during the jury selection process.
The remedy for prosecutorial misconduct depends on where the misconduct occurred when it was discovered and the impact it had on the proceedings. For example, a judge (either at trial, on appeal, or in a habeas corpus proceeding) and do any of the following if he or she finds the prosecution engaged in misconduct:
- Instruct the jury that the prosecutor’s arguments were improper or to ignore certain evidence the prosecutor presented;
- Order a mistrial;
- Overturn a conviction;
- Order a new trial; or
- Order a new sentencing hearing.
However, proving prosecutorial misconduct in the post-conviction context isn’t as easy as merely showing that the prosecutor did something they were prohibited from doing; you must also establish that the prosecutor’s actions impacted the outcome of the proceedings.Are You Interested in Learning More About Prosecutorial Misconduct?
If you or a loved one are serving a lengthy prison sentence that you believe was secured as a result of prosecutorial misconduct, you may be entitled to relief through an application for writ of habeas corpus. At Power Trial Lawyers, we have extensive experience investigating, preparing, and litigating habeas corpus claims on behalf of our clients. Not only that, but we enjoy a remarkably high success rate, having secured the freedom of many clients over the past few years. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Barhoma today, call 213-800-7664. You can also reach us through our online contact form.