Jay Van Story
Prosecutors who orchestrate the false conviction of the innocent are committing crimes every bit as bad as any they prosecute. They’re not using turns to accomplish their offenses, but something far more dangerous—their immense, unchecked power.
Imagine a world without the terrible injustice of innocent men and women being falsely imprisoned by their own government. Of course, such a world will never exist. In any human endeavor, there will all too frequently be mistakes, misconduct, and abuses of power. And as things stand, prosecutors are the ones most likely to commit them.
If only prosecutors were properly motivated to always put truth and justice ahead of ambition and career preservation and advancement. If only they were held properly accountable to prevent them from event thinking about crossing the line in pursuit of a win at any cost. If only their absolute power didn’t corrupt them so absolutely.
At the top of everyone’s list of meaningful criminal justice reforms should be full prosecutorial accountability. If they knew they could go to jail and have to pay money damages out of their own pocket for misconduct, they would be a whole lot less likely to commit it in the first place, and there would be a whole lot fewer innocent people being falsely convicted. As long as they are allowed to keep getting away with misconduct, prosecutors are going to keep committing it with sickening regularity.
The public wants to feel safe. But how can they feel safe when prosecutors who are sworn to uphold the law instead purposely violate it and convict the innocent? Falsely imprisoning anyone threatens the liberty of everyone. It makes everyone feel much less safe and secure in their freedom. None of us are truly free unless we all are.
At no point and for no reason does it ever become permissible for prosecutors to trample on anyone’s basic rights. Prosecutors are not above the law If anything, they should be held to a much higher standard, given their standing.
Courts often overlook and tolerate prosecutorial misconduct because prosecutors are seen as the good guys. Some courts feel that it’s perfectly okay for prosecutors to bend the rules and the truth to their advantage because they supposedly have the greater good as their goal. It’s the old, “the ends justify the means” excuse. But what about when it turns out the prosecutors are the bad guys? What about when their misconduct causes the conviction of the innocent? Should that be overlooked and tolerated, too?
What if everyone could run around committing crimes without any worry of being held responsible? That’s exactly the privilege prosecutors have. They can rob the innocent of their liberty at will and not have to worry about having to answer for it. How can that be right or just?
Prosecutors don’t become superior beings by virtue of getting a law degree, law license, and a job in the DA’s office. They’re still subject to the same universal human condition of weighing their actions against possible consequences. Naturally, if the corrupt among them know they can commit misconduct with impunity, they’re going to do so whenever it suits them. It’s a recipe for repeated disaster, and a major systemic flaw that must be corrected.