National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Police and Prosecutorial Misconduct in Texas

From the Dallas Observer:

He stood, encircled by reporters. After some thank yous, he lit the fuse: “I want to say that me and my lawyer, Cheryl Wattley, we’ll make a formal complaint against Thomas D’Amore for prosecutorial misconduct,” Miles said, referring to the lawyer who prosecuted him. “My life was taken because of malicious acts by a prosecutor. I can’t just let that go by.”

As he spoke, several of the 33 innocent men freed in recent years by Dallas County watched from the gallery, dressed as if for mass. At least seven of their cases had contained “official misconduct,” mostly exculpatory evidence that wasn’t disclosed to defense lawyers, according to Michigan and Northwestern University’s National Registry of Exonerations. Misconduct contributes to 42 percent of exoneration cases nationally, those researchers say.

It’s a problem that’s had a particularly profound effect in Texas. In 91 criminal cases between 2004 and 2008, Texas courts found that prosecutors withheld evidence, made improper arguments or committed other misconduct, according to a report by Veritas Initiative, part of a national Prosecutorial Oversight coalition. But only one prosecutor was disciplined in that time period by the State Bar of Texas. (His license was suspended for two years.)

As Miles and his fellow exonerees know well, prosecutors are virtually immune from accountability. They’re protected from civil action, and the statute of limitations for prosecuting them generally runs out before a prisoner even goes free. Miles could file a grievance with the State Bar, the organization charged with attorney discipline. But there’s a statute of limitations on those complaints, too….

“It’s a prosecutor’s responsibility to never fabricate evidence or manipulate witnesses or take advantage of victims,” Siegler told reporters in dismissing [another] case, according to Texas Monthly. “And unfortunately, what happened in this case is all of those things.”

H/T:  Grits for Breakfast