Official Misconduct

Official misconduct includes both police and prosecutorial misconduct. Police misconduct that leads to wrongful convictions can include improper techniques, coercive tactics, and poor investigation. For example, many police departments use suggestive identification procedures as described in the above section. 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.

The Facts
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

Remedies
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.

 

Courtesy of Innocence Project of Minnesota (©2007)