ADVANTAGES

Prosecutors wield extraordinary power in the criminal legal system. How they exercise their power can be the difference between fairness and inequality, justice and corruption, and a community with faith in its justice system or one that feels betrayed by it. Newspapers across the country have featured elected prosecutors and their offices where there have been failures to use this authority ethically, and in many cases, where prosecutors have engaged in illegal behavior in order to win convictions. In New Orleans, elected District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro issued fake subpoenas, repeatedly hid evidence showing that his office had made deals with informant witnesses, and failed to turn over crucial materials to defense lawyers in a timely manner—jeopardizing convictions, public safety, and the trust of voters. In Orange County, California, elected District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has led an office embroiled in scandals involving a secret jailhouse informant program, the suppression of evidence, and falsified testimony. Earlier this year in Memphis, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich faced formal disciplinary proceedings after the Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that she withheld key evidence from the defense in a murder trial and made improper arguments during her closing statement. This kind of misconduct has devastating results on people’s lives.

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