Salt Lake Tribune: “Prosecutors who break the rules must be held to account”

The Salt Lake City Tribune editorializes on the power, and immunity, of prosecutors:

“A modern prosecutor’s power reaches far beyond what the constitution contemplates as fair for defendants. Prosecutors choose which charges to file, which defendants to file them against and what plea deals will be offered. Prosecutors can withhold exculpatory evidence without anyone knowing, and can ignore a defendant’s right to an attorney, or even read through privileged communications in hopes of not getting caught. …  USA Today published an investigation in 2010 that uncovered 201 cases since 1997 where courts admonished federal prosecutors who violated laws or ethics rules. Only one was disbarred. In Utah, of 18 cases involving allegations of misconduct since 2015, courts ordered new trials in only three of those cases. And the current remedy is no remedy at all. … Courts rarely dismiss charges based on prosecutorial misconduct. Even further, the principle of absolute immunity protects prosecutors from being held civilly liable for the mistakes they make, even when they weren’t mistakes at all.”

In a companion editorial from June 4, the same paper documents the lack of accountability in a number of Utah cases, and discusses legislative remedies:

“The topic of prosecutor misconduct also was discussed among Utah’s lawmakers this past legislative session after Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, brought a proposed resolution that would allow sanctions for prosecutors who don’t give all of the evidence to the defense. He ultimately pulled the bill, Weiler said, to allow the state court’s criminal procedure advisory committee to look into the matter. He hopes that panel might implement a rule change, but if it doesn’t, the senator said he will likely revive the issue during the next session.”

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