Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Prosecutorial Misconduct

He was known as a jailhouse lawyer, a high school dropout turned amateur legal adviser who helped other inmates file legal motions and craft appeals while he served a sentence of 34 years to life for a murder he swore he never committed.

But the cause for which the inmate, Jabbar Collins, most zealously advocated was his own. He requested public records; tracked down old witnesses; and, on at least one occasion, impersonated a law enforcement officer — all in an effort to gather evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.

The fruit of Mr. Collins’s efforts wound its way to United States District Court in Brooklyn on Tuesday and into the hands of Judge Dora L. Irizarry, who indicated that she would vacate his 15-year-old murder conviction because of concerns about how the prosecution was handled by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office.


Witness misidentification and misconduct by police and prosecutors are leading factors in wrongful convictions. The judge in this case captures part of the problem -“Prosecutors have a duty not just to get a conviction by any means necessary or at all cost but to do justice, as hokey as that sounds.”

When prosecutors function in a political world of winning and losing, some are tempted to take shortcuts to victory. Justice (and finding the real perpetrator) be damned.

Update on this case.

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