Debbie, a District Attorney, who is the prosecutor where Jill Smith is facing charges of murder and other drug related charges, is certainly guilty of prosecutorial misconduct on her part. A background of the facts of the case is helpful in this instance. It is the case that Debbie has allowed her past convictions about Smith’s character weigh on her decision to secure conviction since Smith was absolved of the offence on a technicality. Based on the prior conviction that she had secured against Smith in an earlier case and the consequent acquittal by the appeal court on a technicality, Debbie conducts herself inappropriately in a bid to secure another conviction against the defendant. To this end, Debbie includes some charges that she believes and, indeed, knows are not supported by evidence. In doing this, she hopes that the defendant’s attorney will convince Smith to agree to a plea agreement although she acknowledges the fact that her case is weak. She also relays false information to the defendant’s attorney about the evidence she has against the defendant with the aim of convincing him to enter a plea agreement. Through a review of the police report, Debbie also finds that the methods used by the police in gathering evidence are questionable and do not meet the standard raised by the law. It is also clear that some of the confessions made to the police were obtained through illegal means that involved torture. Further, the prosecutor has intentionally delayed the case by buying time so as to navigate through the problems encountered in her case.
Prosecutorial misconduct refers to failure by the prosecutor to adhere to the professional ethics or the abuse of the discretion conferred upon them in the discharge of their duties. Prosecutorial misconduct has the effect of eroding public perception of the integrity of the criminal justice system thus leading to lack of respect for the law and visiting injustice to a defendant. It was defined on the case Berger v United States by Justice Sutherland as the overstepping of the bounds of the propriety and fairness that should characterize the conduct of a criminal prosecutor in their duty. Prosecutor’s role is not to secure a conviction at all costs but rather to lay all facts to the jury of judge so as to enable the making of an informed and fair verdict. Consequently, Debbie’s resolution to secure conviction of Smith by whichever means is misguided and abuse of her discretion which amounts to prosecutorial misconduct. A prosecutor has a duty to avail evidence that is favorable to the defense or tends to exonerate the defendant in a criminal trial. This position was stated in the case of Brady v Maryland where the court held that a prosecutor should not suppress evidence that is beneficial to the defendant. However, the acts by Debbie are inconsistent with this position as she is aware of the tactics used by police in gathering evidence and she further knows that evidence in her possession is not supportive of the charges as framed.
More so, the decision by Debbie to allow the admission of the evidence or testimony of Smith gathered by the police through torture is tantamount to suborning perjury as the same testimony may not be true. Without doubt, such a practice by the prosecutor obliterates all chances of affording the accused a fair trial which is a constitutional right. The Supreme Court laid down the rule relating to perjury in the case of Mooney v Holobann where it stated that deliberate use of perjured testimony by the prosecutor or deliberate non-disclosure of evidence impinges on a defendant’s right to a fair trial. In this respect, the prosecutor engaged in misconduct. In addition, the prosecutor has engaged in delaying tactics whereas she is well aware that Smith continues to be in custody without bail. In the event that the defendant is acquitted, the amount of time spent in custody would have been a violation of his fundamental freedoms. The delay in prosecution also impedes on the right to a fair and expeditious trial and constitutes misconduct on the part of the prosecutor.
Smith cannot personally sue the prosecutor for any real or alleged misconduct since the prosecutor is immune from being sued either criminally or in tort for acts done in the discharge of her duties. In the case of Imbler v Patchman the court held that prosecutors enjoy absolute immunity from any suit in tort for any action undertaken as a prosecutor. More so, Smith cannot sue the prosecutor for knowingly submitting false evidence that prejudices his trial owing to the personal immunity conferred on her. This position is consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Pottawattamie v McGhee where the court absolved prosecutors who had fabricated evidence resulting in a conviction for two innocent persons.
It is the case that the prosecutor in this case delayed so as to buy time and navigate through her seemingly bungled case. However, she may argue that she had to take the time so as to prepare her case. More so, it is the duty of the defendant’s counsel to invoke for a speedy trial for his client of which he has not done. This is because they have chosen to delay the case so as to avoid publicity and bearing in mind the grave charges that the defendant faces. As such, it cannot be said that there is a speedy trial problem in this case.
Butler, P. (2009). Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice. New York: Oxford University Press.
Davis, A. J. (2007). Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor. New York: Oxford University Press.
Green, B. A. (2012). Prosecutors and Professional Regulation. Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, 873.
Neubauer, D. W., & Fradella, H. F. (2010). Tenth Edition American Courts and the Criminal Justice System . New York: Cengage Learning.