It is a long-established and basic reality of law enforcement in America: Prosecutors who want an indictment get an indictment. In 2010 alone, federal prosecutors sought indictments in 162,000 cases. All but 11 times, they succeeded.You can read the full article here.
Yet the results are entirely different when police officers kill unarmed civilians. In those cases, the officers are almost never prosecuted either because district attorneys do not pursue charges in the first place or grand juries do not indict, as happened most recently in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island.
There are various explanations for this, but the most obvious is the inherent conflict of interest that exists for prosecutors, who rely heavily on the police every day. Cops arrest suspects; they investigate crimes; they gather evidence; and they testify in court, working essentially in partnership with prosecutors.
Whether or not bias can be proved in a given case, the public perception of it is real and must be addressed.
The best solution would be a law that automatically transfers to an independent prosecutor all cases in which a civilian is dead at the hands of the police. This would avoid the messy politics of singling out certain district attorneys and taking cases away from them.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
New York Times article on what it calls a prosecutor's "the inherent conflict of interest"
About two weeks ago, I posted a link to a comment on whether the prosecutor in Ferguson, Mo., had acted unethically because of a conflict of interest. See here. Yesterday, the New York Times published an editorial on the issue. It starts as follows: