Once again the NY State District Attorney lobby has strongarmed the Legislature into not even voting on a bill that would hold prosecutors accountable for misconduct (NY Law Journal 6/22/2016).
The idea of “subjecting already busy prosecutors to investigations and hearings at the whim of a disgruntled defendant, victim or member of the public!” fumed the head honcho.
“We are going to spend the vast majority of our time defending every judgment call that we make,” howled an upstate DA. “Are we going to have to be responsible for every mistake we make?”
“We can be easy targets at times,” whined the Bronx DA. “When we do our work, there are always unhappy customers.”
The DA’s assured the Legislature that a commission was quite unnecessary because prosecutors are deterred from wrongdoing by “oversight by trial judges.”
It’s true that members of the public get disgruntled about being dragged through the system by busy prosecutors. Like the unhappy customer put on trial for rape by a Bronx ADA who was too busy to disclose that the complainant had told the police it was consensual. Or the dissatisfied Bronx customer who spent three years at Rikers awaiting trial for a murder she didn’t commit; and was then prosecuted for breaking a “body cavity search chair” in jail. Woman Could Go to Jail for Something She Did While in Jail for Something She Didn’t Do.
Yessiree, a Commission will put an end to all that prosecutor hanky-panky just like the Civilian Complaint Review Board put an end to police brutality.
Here’s what a Commission to investigate prosecutor misconduct would look like:
Scene: The Honest John Prosecutor Blue Ribbon Independent Integrity Commission. Members consist of five DA’s, a judge who used to be a DA and the head of an institutional defender organization who never shows up.
Chair: Now that we’ve had our lunch – my goodness, 4 o’clock already! We’d better start spending the vast majority of our time being easy targets for disgruntled customers. My, that’s a big stack of complaints you have there!
Clerk: It’s only one complaint. The form is 75 pages long, not counting the required DNA profile and consent to random search of the person, home, car and place of business of everyone sharing at least 10 of the petitioner’s alleles.
Chair: Yes, we have to verify the petitioner’s identity before we can take their case. I’m glad to see the form has been translated into Chinese for his or her benefit. We accommodate every disgruntled crank – I mean, customer – regardless of race, creed and/or national origin – –
Clerk: We print all the forms in Chinese. Weeds out frivolous complaints. All you need to read is the People’s response.
Chair: Of course. (Reading) “Defendant, a known criminal, proffered certified records showing he was in jail in Florida at the time of the shooting he was charged with in the Bronx. The prosecutor properly exercised her discretion to prosecute and successfully moved to have the evidence precluded as unfairly prejudicial to the People’s case and confusing to the jury. The Appellate Division affirmed and the Court of Appeals denied leave. Man served 20 years in prison before being exonerated (To the others). Well, we – I mean, they – can’t be responsible for every mistake they make.
Clerk: I guess that’s what’s meant by judicial oversight.