DOJ Deputy Attorney General Responds to USA Today's Report on Prosecutor Misconduct

The PSLawNet Blog has been following the recent coverage of prosecutor misconduct during the last several weeks.  In particular, USA Today’s six month examination of federal prosecutors resulted in a report citing 201 cases of DOJ prosecutors violating the law and/or ethics rules between 1998-2010.

We noted in our earlier coverage that although USA Today acknowledged that the instances of misconduct or negligence were not broadly representative of the federal prosecutor community, their report painted a picture of increasingly faltering work from prosecutors who are either overworked, under-supervised, or willing to break the rules in order to win.

In a recent editorial, Gary Grindler, the Acting Deputy Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice, asserts that the methodology used by USA Today was faulty and the report misleading.

Unfortunately, because USA TODAY used examples stretching as far back as the 1970s and mixed together cases where attorneys made mistakes with cases where actual prosecutorial misconduct was involved, its report was misleading in its suggestion of the proportion of misconduct cases. That rate is in fact significantly smaller.

He acknowledged that will “error-free prosecutions” are always the DOJ’s goal “mistakes will unfortunately happen, as they do in every profession.”

When mistakes occur, we will correct them and be as transparent as possible within the bounds of the law, which restricts what information we can release.

Mr. Grindler also reinforced the DOJ’s commitment to ensuring prosecutors adhere to ethicial standards and to taking action when prosecutors “intentionally disregard these obligations.”

Put simply, a single instance of prosecutorial misconduct is unacceptable. At the Justice Department, we are keenly aware that people can suffer serious harm when we do not adhere to the great traditions of this institution. Overwhelmingly, the cases we bring are handled according to the highest ethical standards. Indeed, an internal review ordered by Attorney General Eric Holder last year found misconduct in just a tiny fraction of the 90,000 or so cases brought annually.

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