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How can prosecutors abuse their power?

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2023 | CRIMINAL LAW - Criminal Appeals

In any criminal trial, the state – embodied by the prosecutor – has a lot of power. Is it any wonder, then, that prosecutorial misconduct has been cited in 30% of cases where a prisoner is eventually exonerated?

As advocates for the state, prosecutors are supposed to ensure that each trial is conducted with integrity so that justice prevails. However, prosecutors can be so convinced that they’re right that they are willing to undermine the entire system just to win a case. Let’s look at some examples of prosecutorial misconduct.

Withholding exculpatory evidence

Thanks to Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors have a clear duty to disclose any evidence in their possession that might be favorable to the accused. However, “Brady violations” happen all the time.

Coercing witnesses

It’s not unheard of for prosecutors to use coercive tactics with witnesses to get their testimony – and turn a blind eye to the fact that those witnesses might be false or unreliable. They may even pressure a witness to testify by threatening them with prosecution for some related crime or offer a “jailhouse snitch” a break for saying what they want them to say on the stand.

Prejudicing the jury

Prosecutors can say a lot in the courtroom, but there are limits. Certain types of arguments or statements by the prosecution can be improper because they unfairly prejudice the jury against the defense. Examples include things like introducing facts that aren’t in evidence during the trial or purposefully using the media to try to influence the jury pool.

If you believe that your trial was tainted by prosecutorial misconduct, it’s time to get experienced legal guidance to help determine if the issue can be raised on appeal.