We lead off today’s blog post with this question to our readers across Texas and elsewhere: What do you think is the primary catalyst underlying the majority of wrongful criminal convictions in the United States?
Is it perhaps some error of law committed by a trial court? Or maybe a wrong judgment call by an overly impressionable jury?
In fact, notes the respected National Exoneration Registry, more than 50% of all wrongful convictions are directly linked with official misconduct.
In many cases that means that prosecutorial abuse played a key part in sabotaging a just verdict, which is at once a tragic and chilling reality.
“]S]ociety wins not only when the guilty are convicted, but when criminal trials are fair,” noted the U.S. Supreme Court in its seminal 1963 case ruling announced in Brady v. Maryland.
The “Brady rule” can be quickly conveyed, to wit: Prosecutors must turn over evidence in their possession that is favorable to the defense. The obvious rationale for the rule is that justice can only prevail when prosecutors and their team of investigators do not purposefully shield information that undercuts a defendant’s guilt.
A recent article on Brady stresses that violations of the doctrine are troublingly common, especially when prosecutors are “focused on winning and not justice.”
That assessment comes as no surprise to proven legal teams that uphold the constitutional rights and interests of individuals targeted in criminal investigations. The above-cited report states that defense advocates almost unanimously agree that Brady breaches “occur regularly in the courthouse.”
Seasoned defense attorneys routinely guard against such violations in cases they manage. Their clients depend upon that vigilance, knowing that it is critically important for ensuring a fair playing field and promoting a truly just outcome.