Official misconduct includes both police and prosecutorial misconduct. Coercive conduct and poor investigation by police can lead to wrongful convictions. Law enforcement officials have also used forced confessions, violence toward suspects, and manufactured evidence, which have led to wrongful accusations and convictions. Prosecutor misconduct includes suppression of exculpatory evidence, destruction of evidence, use of unreliable and untruthful witnesses and snitches, and the fabrication of evidence.
Official misconduct was a contributing factor in 47% of all exonerations on record since 1989. In the first 74 cases of exoneration, we can break this down further under two categories: Police Misconduct and Prosecutorial Misconduct.
Police Misconduct in the first 74 exonerated cases:
- 34% Suppression of Exculpatory Evidence
- 33% Allegation of Undue Suggestiveness in Pre-Trial ID Procedures
- 11% Evidence Fabrication
- 9% Allegation of Coerced Witness
- 8% Coerced Confession/Admission Alleged
- 5% Other Misconduct
Prosecutorial Misconduct in the first 74 exonerated cases:
- 37% Suppression of Exculpatory Evidence
- 25% Knowing Use of False Testimony
- 11% Coerced Witness
- 9% Improper Closing Arguments
- 9% False Statements to Jury
- 5% Evidence Fabrications
- 4% Other Misconduct
In 2010, the Northern California Innocence project released a report based on a comprehensive review of over 4,000 publicly state and federal appellate rulings of prosecutorial misconduct in the state of California. This report gives an excellent overview of scope and persistence of the problem prosecutorial misconduct continues to present in our criminal justice system.
Police and prosecutors need to be trained to avoid, and held accountability for, using improper techniques. One step would be to create disciplinary committees that would focus on the misconduct of police officers and prosecutors. In addition, the higher involvement of federal agencies could also work to limit official misconduct.