Prosecutors and wrongful convictions-WTR

There has been much talk in the military justice community about prosecutor ethics and how they may clash with the commander and Congressional desires to prosecute and convict those accused of sexual assault.  It is difficult to decide if pressure (proper or otherwise) leads prosecutors to err, or whether it is inexperience or just a desire to improve their scoreboard.  The authors below touch on an interesting view of how prosecutors are “involved” in wrongful convictions.

Kay L. Levine and Ronald F. Wright (Emory University School of Law and Wake Forest University – School of Law) have posted Prosecutor Risk, Maturation, and Wrongful Conviction Practice (Law and Social Inquiry, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In this article we rethink the connection between prosecutorial experience and conviction psychology that undergirds much of the academic literature about wrongful convictions. The conviction psychology account of prosecutorial behavior asserts that prosecutorial susceptibility to cognitive biases deepens over time, thereby increasing the risk that prosecutors will become involved in wrongful convictions the longer they stay in the profession.

Our interviews with more than 200 state prosecutors call into question the basis for this asserted correlation between prosecutorial experience and risk of misconduct. The prosecutors we met consistently reported that, all else equal, prosecutors tend to become more balanced, rather than more adversarial, over time. Hence, the prosecutors who present the greatest risk of producing a wrongful conviction are those who are either inexperienced or resistant to the normal maturation process. For this reason, we suggest that wrongful conviction researchers and database designers pay closer attention to the variables associated with prosecutorial experience and resistance that might affect the development of prosecutorial maturity and the consequent risk of wrongful convictions.