Under a new law signed by Governor Brown Friday, AB 1909, California prosecutors who knowingly withhold or falsify evidence can now be charged with a felony and go to prison.
In California, there often have been no consequences for prosecutors who have been caught cheating the system. According to a 2010 study from criminal justice reform group the Northern California Innocence Project, there were more than 700 California cases of prosecutorial misconduct from 1997 to 2009 ― and only six prosecutors in those cases were ever disciplined. Here’s what the Huffington Post had to say:
“While the law doesn’t create any new legal obligations for prosecutors, it does create new sanctions for those willing to violate the law, which is “desirable,” Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine, told The Huffington Post in an email.
“Hopefully, this will provide an additional deterrent against prosecutorial misconduct,” Chemerinsky said.
Ben Feuer, chairman of the California Appellate Law Group and a former clerk on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, told HuffPost the law is “a good step in the right direction” and that the law may have a significant effect on disincentivizing prosecutorial misconduct.
Where a state prosecutor in the past may have willfully withheld evidence in order to boost convictions to advance his or her career, Feuer explained, now a prosecutor has to at least weigh that theoretical benefit against committing an actual felony that could land the prosecutor in jail.
“That may give folks thinking of bending the rules a lot more pause before doing so ― ideally, enough pause to make the right decision,” Feuer said.
Prosecutors are the most powerful government agents in the American criminal justice system. They have complete and unrivaled access to evidence that can determine a person’s guilt or innocence.”