Prosecutorial misconduct -- can it be acceptable?I was watching the news with Anderson cooper and he was talking about the misconduct of prosecutore.   the panel reports to the effect that...

Prosecutorial misconduct -- can it be acceptable?

I was watching the news with Anderson cooper and he was talking about the misconduct of prosecutore.


the panel reports to the effect that prosecutorial misconduct is tolerable when there is overwhelming proof of guilt in a case.  What does this mean?  Do you agree?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What this means is that it is okay if prosecutors do things wrong as long as it is absolutely clear that the person is guilty.  In such a case, their misconduct made no difference because the person was going to be found guilty no matter what.  It's like if we're playing basketball and I'm way better than you and I'm going to win no matter what.  If I cheat, maybe it's no big deal because it doesn't change the outcome.

Do I agree?  It sounds good in theory, but it's hard to do this in practice.  How do we determine objectively how much impact a prosecutor's misconduct had on our feeling about how guilty the defendant is?

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, I do not agree.  This is a slippery slope.  The motto of our justice system:  It is better for 9 guilty men to go free than one innocent man to go to jail.  I do not think it is ever ok to bend the rules just because you think someone is guilty.  If you can't get him for that, get him for something else!

mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't agree either.   Once it is ok to bend the rules that much, then it becomes acceptable to manufacture evidence etc.  I know that this may allow some people to go free who should be in jail, but we need to do it legally or the whole system becomes corrupt.


discussion1984 | Student

Please keep in mind that I know nothing of laws. I'm thinking this through philosophically.

discussion1984 | Student

 Those who believe x is right, believe a person's guilt or innocent makes that action permissible. I don't see how this is relevant. The question is not whether a prosecutor's actions determine the guilt or innocence of an accused. The question is whether an action x is right or wrong. By "misconduct," a person is guilty of doing something wrong. So, clearly, the prosecutor is guilty of doing something wrong. The burden of proof otherwise rests on showing that a person's guilt or innocence is relevant to the rightness or wrongness of that action, and so far there is no rationale for that.

However, the question could also be asking if a person is morally/professionally blameworthy, if his misconduct as a prosecutor is excused by a person's guilt or innocence. Again, there is nothing to show that this is so. A person who commits misconduct has done something wrong, and it is a separate fact that a person is guilty or innocent.

That said, part of "justice" is proccedural compliance. So if a person has committed misconduct, complicance has been broken, and a person cannot be pronounced guilty. In this case, the outcome (guilty) is already known, so a person's misconduct is irrelevant TO a person's guilt or innocence. However, this still does not excuse the misconduct. It only shows that it is irrelevant to the outcome (guilt or innocence of the accused).