The following is an excerpt from “The dangerous invisibility of prosecutorial misconduct,” an op-ed written by Ross Miller, Assistant Director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, for Penn Live.
As recent stories in media around the county have shown, prosecutorial misconduct is a frequently cited contributor to wrongful convictions and undermines the credibility of our criminal justice system. When we try to dig deeper to understand the prevalence and frequency of these instances, there is very little information.
In contrast, the scientific study of other significant criminal justice errors like police excessive force and misconduct have advanced, even in the face of challenges posed by inaccurate reporting of incidents and the difficulty in getting police cooperation with data collection efforts.
Prosecutor misconduct, whether negligent, reckless or intentional, has evaded similar scrutiny, and the lack of data is a far more significant issue when there is virtually no data at all. This information void leaves reformers and prosecutors at odds on necessary policy reforms to improve the quality and accuracy of our justice system.
Recently, the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice tried to fill this data gap. We reviewed every judicial opinion in Pennsylvania from 2000 – 2016 that contained the terms “prosecutorial misconduct” or “Brady v. Maryland” (a case that addresses prosecutor failures to turn over exculpatory information).