Many wrongful convictions can be traced back to constitutional violations committed by the investigating police officers and/or prosecutors involved. Infamous individuals such as Chicago’s own Jon Burge, have shed light on the illegal tactics employed in some police departments and prosecutor’s offices.
The EP has cases with confessions that have been tortured out of innocent defendants, as well as cases where prosecutors have withheld exculpatory information from defendants during trial (such as alternative suspects who have confessed to a crime). Unfortunately, there is a broad range of misconduct that can occur during the investigation of a crime, and the subsequent trial.
For a look at some common occurrences, we’ve linked to a few studies and articles below:
- An archive of articles on Police Torture in Chicago by the Chicago Reader
- A compilation of the Special Prosecutor’s Report into the misconduct of Jon Burge
- “Police Misconduct as a Cause of Wrongful Convictions” a report by Russell D. Covey (Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-26)
- Center for Prosecutor Integrity’s White Paper on “An Epidemic of Prosecutor Misconduct“
More on Prosecutorial Misconduct
The New York Times Editorial Board ran a piece on Jan. 4, 2014 entitled, “Rampant Prosecutorial Misconduct.” In that piece, the Board summed up the problem of “Brady” violations as follows:
The Brady problem is in many ways structural. Prosecutors have the task of deciding when a piece of evidence would be helpful to the defense. But since it is their job to believe in the defendant’s guilt, they have little incentive to turn over, say, a single piece of exculpatory evidence when they are sitting on what they see as a mountain of evidence proving guilt. The lack of professional consequences for failing to disclose exculpatory evidence only makes the breach of duty more likely. As Judge Kozinski wrote, “Some prosecutors don’t care about Brady because courts don’t make them care.”
Courts should heed Judge Kozinski’s call, but it will take more than judges to fix the problem. Prosecutors’ offices should adopt a standard “open file” policy, which would involve turning over all exculpatory evidence as a rule, thus reducing the potential for error.
Read Their Stories
Explore the different ways wrongful convictions occur through the eyes of the innocent incarcerated.
- Ben BakerIn 2016, Ben Baker overturned his 2006 conviction for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver after the Exoneration Project obtained exculpatory FBI documents through the Freedom of Information Act. The materials prove that Bakers’ allegations against a corrupt Chicago Police tactical team were corroborated by investigative materials that were available at the …