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What is Prosecutorial Misconduct?

Prosecutorial Misconduct

What is Prosecutorial Misconduct?

Prosecutorial misconduct refers to the act of attempting to persuade a jury to make a wrongful or unlawful decision against a defendant. It’s an illegal act that can result in the wrongful conviction of a defendant or a harsher punishment.

Prosecutorial Misconduct

Normally, prosecutors are bound by legal rules that ensure the fair prosecution of defendants. Breaking these rules is against the law and breaks their code of conduct. It can result in the dismissal of the prosecutor.

What is Classed as Prosecutorial Misconduct?

There are multiple different acts that can be classed as prosecutorial misconduct, and they can occur in any type of case, from a murder case to a wrongful termination trial.

The following are classed as prosecutorial misconduct:

  • Dismissing evidence in that has been put forward by witnesses in favor of the defendant 
  • Making statements to the press or media that are against the jury pool or jurors
  • Concealing important evidence that could prove the innocence of the defendant
  • Changing or tampering with evidence in a case
  • Accepting an illegal plea deal
  • Amplifying or manipulating evidence to sway the jury or jurors toward a specific decision
  • Purposefully misinterpreting evidence in a case to affect the juror’s decision
  • Entrapment
  • Purposefully lying to a jury or juror
  • Intimidating witnesses or bribing them to hide evidence
  • Discriminating against a defendant because of one of their protected characteristics, such as age, race, religion, sex, or ethnicity

Some of the above are more common than others but they are all classed as prosecutorial misconduct and are illegal.

What is Classed as an Improper Argument?

There are a number of things that can be classed as improper arguments to a jury or juror, including:

  • Expressing personal opinions about a defendant and treating them as facts
  • Raising opinions about a defendant to impact the outcome of the case
  • Name-calling the defendant or any member of their legal team
  • Claiming that the defendant or a witness was lying
  • Claiming that the defendant or their team are falsifying evidence
  • Presenting evidence that was not originally presented to the jury or juror
  • Misstating the law
  • Trying to use emotional manipulation to persuade the jury or juror one way or another
  • Painting the defendant or their team in a poor light to mischaracterize them
  • Accusing a defense attorney of lying
  • Claiming arguments based on a defendant’s race, age, gender, or sexual orientation

What Happens if Prosecutorial Misconduct Occurs?

If prosecutorial misconduct is suspected, a full investigation will be made to confirm that this is the case. The defendant is then entitled to a mistrial, which will result in either a new trial or complete dismissal of the original charges that were raised against them.

Even if a prosecutor hasn’t intentionally undergone misconduct, a judge may still decide to declare a mistrial if they suspect that there have been unfair decisions made against the defendant. Should the judge decide that the prosecutor’s error has not impacted the overall decision of the trial, the individual in question may not be dismissed. Instead, they may get a stern warning.