Under current California State laws, if a prosecutor withholds certain
evidence during a trial, they can be punished by the State Bar of California
and the judge working the case. This can result in them losing their license
to practice and the judge can even remove that prosecutor or their DA’s
office from a particular case.
Proposed New Bill: AB 1909
With a potential new bill, AB 1909, Governor Jerry Brown will be deciding
whether or not this type of misconduct can also result in criminal charges
against the prosecutor, labeling this type of offense as a felony. While
many district attorneys are not in favor of this bill, Attorney Jacqueline
Goodman, who is the secretary of the California Attorneys for Criminal
Justice organization which sponsored the legislation, believes that Governor
Brown should vote it into law.
Thoughts from Attorney Goodman
Attorney Goodman believes that this bill should even be a controversial issue and provided
the following statement to the Los Alamitos Patch:
"Gov. Brown has rightly recognized the profound harm that has resulted
from mass incarceration over the last several years. But unlike with other
felonies, if signed into law, AB 1909 would hold prosecutors accountable
for intentionally withholding evidence of innocence in criminal trials,
resulting in fewer wrongful convictions and less severe prison sentences.
Unless the problem of prosecutorial misconduct is even more widespread
than we realize, this new felony should have the effect of reducing the
prison population -- indeed by culling the innocent from that population."
She also believes that trustworthy prosecutors should be some of the first
in line to approve of this bill, which does not condone the “abuse
of the public trust.” There is also some dispute about whether or
not the punishment should be so severe as to charge these prosecutors
with a felony. Goodman makes note that the existing law in California
already provides felony punishment for any peace officer that fails to
provide corresponding evidence, therefore concealing the material.
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