A recent report released by Fair Punishment Project at Harvard University highlighted the prosecutorial misconduct repeatedly exhibited by prosecutors in the District Attorney’s office in Orange County, California. Led by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who has headed the office since 1998, the Orange County office leads all other counties in the state of California in the number of conviction reversals per capita on appeal. The report highlights that common reasons leading to reversal of criminal convictions relate to prosecutorial misconduct involve the illegal use of informants to obtain confessions and refusing to provide exculpatory evidence to defendants in violation of their constitutional rights. In addition, legal observers had noted that the office had often failed to prosecute serious crimes while going after other less serious cases, calling into question the integrity of the office, while also pointing that government officials had reportedly refused to testify or lied under oath when asked about the office’s practices.
The Department of Justice Responds to the OCDA’s Misconduct
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) office in December 2016 after a group of legal scholars, professors, and former prosecutors contacted then Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate. In addition, a legal panel appointed within Orange County to investigate the office had found that prosecutors proceeded against defendants with a “win at all costs mentality” and that few were willing to step forward to call for change within the office out of fear of futility.
Among the questionable circumstances that have led to the wave of scrutiny of prosecutorial misconduct at the OCDA office include:
- The systematic use of informants within jail cells by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to obtain illegal confessions from defendants awaiting trial (it is a constitutional violation for a government agent to direct a civilian to obtain information from a defendant without an attorney present)
- The withholding of exculpatory evidence from defendants to use in mounting their defense at criminal trials (it is also a constitutional violation to withhold exculpatory evidence from a defendant), and then providing inaccurate testimony about the practices in court
What to Do When You Are a Victim of Prosecutorial Misconduct
Unfortunately, while prosecutorial misconduct can fester in certain offices, it is not limited to Orange County, and any prosecutor has the potential to engage in misconduct by failing to follow constitutional standards in bringing charges against a defendant.
If you have been convicted of a crime and you believe that you would not have been convicted but for the presence of prosecutorial misconduct – which can include illegal searches and seizures, illegally obtained confessions, prosecution without sufficient evidence, planting fake evidence, failure to hand over exculpatory evidence, or other practices – you may be able to successfully appeal your conviction by working with a criminal appeals attorney to fully assess whether prosecutorial misconduct or other reversible error took place, and then taking the necessary steps to bring that reversible error to light in front of an appeals court.
Legal Assistance With Criminal Appeals
If you received an unfair outcome in a criminal case, you may be eligible to appeal your verdict and/or your sentence. The Law Office of Corey Evan Parker is focused on the civil and criminal appeals process in Washington and California. If you are considering filing a criminal or civil appeal, feel free to contact Mr. Parker today for a no obligation 30 minute consultation.