Prosecutors who err repeatedly: ACLU of NJ Report

A careful study of prosecutorial conduct by the New Jersey ACLU reaches some unsurprising conclusions: that [a]s general rule, prosecutors in New Jersey deserve praise for avoiding repeated error in the overwhelming majority of cases. But there is nonetheless significant repeated prosecutorial error which requires “policies that provide for training, supervision and discipline.”  That “summation errors…continue to occur with “numbing frequency.” And that  courts must develop policies — including publicly naming offending prosecutors and reporting them to appropriate  bodies — that will ensure that prosecutorial error happens less often. 
The ACLU authors (including Rutgers law professor George C. Thomas, III) notably conclude, in their most dramatic recommendation that:

A system of mandatory reporting of all findings of prosecutorial error to the Office of the Attorney General would create a database to track prosecutors with repeated violations. 

Under this model, the Office of the Attorney General would be required to forward a complaint to the appropriate district ethics board whenever error contributed to a reversal of a conviction and whenever a prosecutor had been cited for a subsequent finding of error.


Trial and Error – A Comprehensive Study of Prosecutorial Conduct in New Jersey

 – ACLU of NJ
by Alexander Shalom and Prof. George Thomas

from the Executive Summary

As a whole, prosecutors understand the unique role they play in the administration of justice and take their responsibilities seriously. They seek diligently to avoid errors that could undermine both the integrity of the criminal justice system and the validity of their hard-fought convictions. They proceed confident in the knowledge that they seek not only convictions, but justice, and often without competitive remuneration.
When prosecutors err, and transgress rules established for their conduct, they generally learn from their mistakes and avoid repeated missteps. However, a small group of prosecutors commits multiple errors without seeming to learn from those missteps. This American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey study aims to survey comprehensively prosecutorial error in New Jersey by examining the prevalence of error and determining which errors occur most frequently.
After compiling the foundational data, the study’s authors quantitatively analyzed the data’s meaning. Specifically, researchers examined the extent of inter-county disparities among rates of error, correlations between error and experience and prevalence of individual prosecutors with repeated instances of error.  The report examines the contexts in which prosecutors were cited for error on multiple occasions and explores the costs of prosecutorial error for criminal defendants,  for society and for individual prosecutors.

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