Texas prosecutors challenge report on misconduct

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Updated: 9/18/2012 3:59 am
District attorneys across the state are challenging a report by a California civil rights group that claims 91 cases of misconduct by Texas prosecutors between 2004 and 2008.

"Well, there were lots of accusations that there was kind of a widespread, unchecked, you know, prosecutors gone wild," Lubbock County District Attorney Matt Powell said. "You know, left to their own whims and what they wanted to do, and that they were convicting innocent people on purpose, and doing it intentionally and things like that."

Powell is a member of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, which did its own research, and strongly disputed the report by the Northern California Innocence Project.

"We found six cases of prosecutorial misconduct, what we consider prosecutorial misconduct," Powell said. "We are not talking about bad argument or anything like that. We are talking about intentional acts that were done. And you know, we thought that was six too many, but six out of four million, we thought that was pretty good."

He said those cases ended up having a positive effect.

"Repercussions were coming from that," Powell said. "Guys losing an election. Guys being sanctioned by the bar. Cases obviously being reversed and things like that, which they should be. If you have instances of intentional prosecutorial misconduct, then certainly, that should be the remedy."

A notorious example is the case of Michael Morton, released from prison almost a year ago. He was sentenced to life in 1987 for killing his wife, Christine. DNA evidence proved the deciding factor. Morton's lawyer John Raley claimed misconduct by prosecutor Ken Anderson, who will go before a court of inquiry in December to see if he should be prosecuted.

Powell said it is faulty identification, not misconduct, that is usually to blame for a bad conviction.

"You are going to have a hard time convincing me that a prosecutor starts his job with the assumption, 'I can't wait to convict innocent people'. I think that's nonsense," Powell said.

The TDCAA also reported that ten of the 91 cases involved federal prosecutors, not lawyers from the state of Texas.
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