TX - Although courts have confirmed that prosecutorial misconduct occurred in 91 Texas criminal cases between 2004 and 2008, not a single prosecutor among those has ever been disciplined for their misbehavior, according to new data compiled by the Innocence Project. (Allegations of prosecutor misconduct were raised in another 124 cases, but those issues were not ruled on by any court.)
This is likely just the tip of the iceberg, said Emily West, IP research director, during a public dialogue on prosecutorial oversight last week at the University of Texas School of Law. Indeed, because 98% of Texas criminal cases are resolved through plea bargain, it is unlikely that we'll ever know the true extent of the problem – which includes withholding exculpatory or other evidence possibly favorable to a defendant. Of the 91 cases in which the courts agreed there was misconduct, 36 involved "improper" arguments during trial, 35 involved improper questioning of a witness, and eight involved a failure to disclose favorable materials, known as a Brady violation. That's exactly what Michael Morton says happened to him.
“It paints a bleak picture about what’s going on with accountability and prosecutors,” said Cookie Ridolfi, founder of the Northern California Innocence Project, who researched misconduct data in Texas and other states.
“There’s no disincentive for a prosecutor to do it unless he or she has an internal moral code themselves,” Ridolfi said. In a study of California cases, her organization reported that from 1997 to 2009, courts found 707 instances of prosecutorial misconduct. There were just six instances in which prosecutors were disciplined.