Welcome to Accountability New York

We are a Coalition Seeking Professional Consequences for Prosecutorial Misconduct.

What is Prosecutorial Power?

Prosecutors have immense power in our legal system, often more than judges—with power to:

  • decide who to prosecute
  • determine what charges to file
  • determine what punishment to seek
  • control what evidence to provide to the defense
  • control which witnesses will testify in support of the government’s case

What is Prosecutorial Misconduct?

According to legal ethics rules, prosecutors are supposed to act as “ministers of justice,” not just advocates, and abide by their ethical obligations to ensure that people accused of a crime receive due process of the law and that innocent people are not convicted. Court decisions, written statutes and ethical codes provide rules that are meant to make sure that prosecutors provide evidence to the defense, conduct themselves properly in trial, and make sure the accused’s rights are not violated.

However, prosecutors have, on far too many occasions, broken the most basic rules to win cases. This is called Prosecutorial Misconduct. Some of the most common examples are below.

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Withholding Evidence

When the prosecutor hides or fails to disclose evidence favorable to the accused (such as Brady v. Maryland evidence).

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This Type of Misconduct

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Improper Questioning

When the prosecutor tries to make a point by asking improper questions of the accused or any other witness.

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This Type of Misconduct

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Summation Misconduct

When the prosecutor makes misleading, unfair, or otherwise improper arguments to the jury. 

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This Type of Misconduct

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False Statements

When the prosecutor makes false statements, elicits false witness testimony, fails to correct testimony they know is false, or engages in other dishonest conduct.

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This Type of Misconduct

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Tainting the Grand Jury

When the prosecutor breaks the rules that govern their behavior while conducting a grand jury. In a grand jury, prosecutors present evidence privately to jurors, typically without a judge or defense attorney.

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This Type of Misconduct

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Discrimination

When the prosecutor removes a potential juror based on race, ethnicity, gender, or other protected characteristic during the jury selection process (commonly described as a "Batson violation" per Batson v. Kentucky).

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This Type of Misconduct

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Why This Is Important

Prosecutorial misconduct can lead to disastrous consequences, including wrongful convictions, people spending decades in prison and destroying entire families whose loved ones spend years behind bars. This egregious abuse is directly linked to, and occurs in the context of, the ugly rise of mass incarceration and the targeted harm the system inflicts on Black and brown communities. A recent national study of 2,400 exonerations found that almost a third of them included prosecutorial misconduct. The Death Penalty Information Center identified more than 600 cases nationwide in which a capital conviction or death sentence was overturned as a result of prosecutorial misconduct.

To learn more about some common types of prosecutorial misconduct and the powerful role of the prosecutor in the criminal system, read The Problem.

Derrick Hamilton on Why Prosecutor Accountability Matters
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Listen to Derrick Hamilton, co-founder of Families and Friends of the Wrongfully Convicted, describe his wrongful incarceration and his view on the problem of prosecutorial misconduct.

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How did the city respond to this litany of widespread misconduct by its own agents? It went after the professors who publicized it....New York City’s top lawyer, known as the corporation counsel, accused the professors of abusing the grievance process “to promote a political agenda” and of violating a state law that requires formal complaints about lawyers’ conduct to be kept secret unless judicial authorities decide otherwise... For good measure, the corporation counsel then sought to keep secret the letter requesting the professors be punished for violating the secrecy law. This isn't just shooting the messenger; it's tossing the gun into the East River and threatening anyone who tries to fish it out.

Editorial Board, “How Can You Destroy a Person's Life and Only Get a Slap on the Wrist?”, The New York Times, December 4, 2021

What We Are Doing About This

Prosecutorial power creates an opaque system where accountability is rare and rarely public. Courts, district attorneys, and bar associations seldomly issue public discipline for prosecutorial misconduct.

Accountability NY—a coalition of law professors, Civil Rights Corps, attorneys, impacted community members, and others—have worked on grievances based primarily on public records, such as court findings of prosecutorial misconduct or District Attorney Offices’ own investigations into their prosecutors’ practices, where those prosecutors and former prosecutors still had no record of public discipline. You can read the filed complaints on the Grievances page.

To learn more about some common types of prosecutorial misconduct and the powerful role of the prosecutor in the criminal system, read The Problem. For further exploration, review News & Resources.

The New York State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct has authority to review and investigate the conduct of prosecutors. Learn how to file your own complaint with your Grievance Committee.

To contact us, please email complaints@accountabilityny.org.

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