Misbehaving Federal Prosecutors

A USA Todayinvestigation finds egregious misconduct at the Department of Justice, with few consequences.

Radley Balko

Last weekUSA Today published the results of a six-month investigation into misconduct by America’s federal prosecutors. The investigation turned up what Pace University law professor Bennett Gershman called a pattern of “serious, glaring misconduct.” Reporters Brad Heath and Kevin McCoy documented 201 cases in which federal prosecutors were chastised by federal judges for serious ethical breaches, ranging from withholding important exculpatory evidence to lying in court to making incriminating but improper remarks in front of juries.

The list is by no means comprehensive, and doesn’t claim to be. I checked the paper’s website for examples of egregious misconduct reported here at Reason: U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan’s politically-charged prosecution of Pennsylvania doctor Bernard Rottschaefer; Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Grayson’s outrageous persecution of the Colomb family in Louisiana; and the bogus Mann Act charges brought against Mississippi heart surgeon, Dr. Roger Wiener. None are among the cases in USA Today’s database. The paper should be lauded for its groundbreaking investigation, but as the reporters themselves acknowledge, they’ve really only scratched the surface. (The investigation also only looked at federal cases, which comprise just a tiny portion of the country’s total criminal prosecutions.)

When the Bush administration drew criticism for firing seven U.S. attorneys a few years ago, much of the outrage was directed at the administration’s perceived politicization of the Justice Department. But that was really only a symptom of a more fundamentally broken system. The deeper problem is that we have a federal criminal justice system that can be so easily manipulated in the first place…

The article continues at Reason.com

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