Author Archives: Stormme King

How Common is Prosecutorial Overreach in the United States?

Our mission is to help those who have been accused or convicted of a crime get back on their feet. If this is you, you know that this is an uphill battle. There are forces in this world that are hellbent on keeping you down. Unfortunately, in some jurisdictions, one of these forces is the prosecutor’s office themselves.

Prosecutorial overreach runs rampant in U.S. courts, both at the state and federal levels. Law enforcement and prosecutors perceive the need to play tough to build cases and secure convictions. While being tough to get results may be part of their job descriptions, many fail to recognize that playing fair is also their duty.

 

The Brady Rule

 

 

 

 

 

Criminal law provides for crucial procedures and rights designed to provide the accused with the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial, in conjunction with the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th amendments. When prosecutors decide to take a win-at-all-costs mentality, they are tempted to cheat, or at least cut corners. When they cheat, they violate defendant’s constitutional rights. Unfortunately, this results in many defendants being convicted of crimes they did not commit – or the punishment won’t fit the crime.

One of the most common forms of prosecutorial overreach is a violation of the Brady rule. This rule requires prosecutors share any exculpatory evidence with the defense. Exculpatory evidence, which shows a defendant’s innocence, usually winds up in the hands of prosecutors as a result of law enforcement investigations. For example, a police report of a witness’s description of a suspect that does not match the defendant would be exculpatory. When prosecutors fail to turn such a piece of evidence over to the defense, they violate the Brady rule.

Judge Says Brady Rule Violations Are Epidemic

In 2013, the Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Alex Kozinski, wrote in a judicial opinion, “There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land.” The judge went on to say he believes judges must work harder to stop these violations. In the case, he wrote the opinion for, prosecutors failed to turn over information that the scientist who conducted forensic testing in the case had a history of providing wrong information in criminal law cases, including intentional misconduct that resulted in the conviction of innocent people.

Prosecutors Facing Little Oversight

 

 

 

 

Part of the problem stems from the fact that prosecutors face too little oversight. As the system works, prosecutors have the discretion to decide what qualifies as exculpatory. Since they are under high pressure to win cases, there is a tendency toward bias in making these determinations. When courts find that prosecutors have withheld exculpatory evidence, prosecutors rarely face serious consequences.

Overreach from a prosecutor, whether from a Brady violation or other misconduct, greatly diminishes defendant’s rights to a fair trial. Defense attorneys work hard to keep prosecutors honest by demanding all exculpatory evidence, and when exculpatory evidence is withheld, they demand the dismissal of wrongful charges.

 Image Credit: Eric Harron Criminal Defense

Made a Mistake? Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up

People make mistakes all the time; the human factor dictates that actions are often less than perfect. The critical part about mistakes comes after the fact; take opportunities to learn how to act differently in the future. Each mistake is a learning opportunity to create an alternative future. Realizing the mistake, learning from the process, and practicing different habits can help to prevent the same thing from recurring.

Realizing the Mistake

The first step is realizing that you’ve made a mistake, and admitting that freely. According to Rowdy G. Williams, “being convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) can lead to serious penalties that have a long-lasting effect on your life.” Not just DUI convictions, but any conviction can have long lasting effects on your life and livelihood. 

Taking responsibility for the action helps to reinforce any change that will follow. Try to pick yourself up after making a mistake rather than blaming yourself repeatedly. The negative thoughts will do more harm than productivity. Similarly, avoiding responsibility and refusing to admit that a mistake happened is as non-productive. Own your actions, learn from them, and develop different habits to move past them.

Learning from the Process

Take the opportunity to learn from your mistake. Understand that in order not to be credited with another conviction, your thought process must change. Learning about the science behind the problem may help to motivate you to make changes. Think about your future and weigh the consequences of your actions before making another mistake. Enlist the help of family, friends, medical practitioners, research studies, library books, and any other sources you can find. Educating yourself about your issues can be an empowering way to begin seeking alternatives and behavior changes. The more you know, the more options are available to you.

Practicing Different Habits

Finally, invest in practicing different habits. Use tools like group meetings, a support system of friends and family, a sponsor, and involving yourself in different social circles to help you along the way. Nolef Turns, Inc. is a great resource for finding support from others dealing with convictions. Consider being a mentor/buddy for someone dealing with legal issues or for a child with an incarcerated parent. You might even delve into different self-care practices by taking time to discover which activities bring you joy. Creative outlets like writing, reading, dance, and blogging can be wonderfully productive outlets. Perhaps your outlet comes in the form of a sport, exercise, or another form of fitness. Regardless of what makes you happy, practice it regularly to supplement fostering new habits.

When you make a mistake, make every effort to pick yourself back up afterward. Admit that it happened, take responsibility, learn about alternatives, and dedicate yourself to behavior change so that the same mistake does not occur repeatedly. Above all, be patient and kind to yourself; self-change takes time.

 


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