Jul 21

Four Prosecutors Who Repeatedly Violate Constitution Identified In Fair Punishment Project Report

The Recidivists report cover (Fair Punishment Project, July 2017)

The Recidivists report cover (Fair Punishment Project, July 2017)

A new report by the Fair Punishment Project identifies four prosecutors in four different states who repeatedly violated the constitution to obtain a conviction. “The Recidivists: Four Prosecutors Who Repeatedly Violate The Constitution,” was released on July 13, 2017.

Those four prosecutors are Leon Cannizzaro, Jennifer Joyce, Amy Weirich, and Tony Rackauckas.

Fair Punishment Project (FPP) researchers reviewed every available state appellate court opinion dealing with allegations of prosecutorial misconduct published in California, Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2015. The review was to find cases where the appeals court determined there had been prosecutorial misconduct, and then to find whether the court found the misconduct had been harmful to the defendant, and whether the court reversed the conviction or provided some other form of relief.

All elected county or parish prosecutors in those four states who served during 2010 to 2015 were ranked based on four criteria:

  • Misconduct Rank (Total cases where misconduct had been found.)
  • Reversal Rank (Total convictions reversed.)
  • Misconduct Rank Per Capita (of county or parish)
  • Reversal Rank Per Capita (of county or parish)

The report identified Cannizzaro, Joyce, Weirich, and Rackauckas as the prosecutors who aggregately ranked highest in each state. Summaries of the findings regarding each of them follows.

Leon Cannizzaro, Orleans Parish, Louisiana District Attorney (2008 – Current), ranked higher in more categories than any other prosecutor:

  • Misconduct Rank — #1 out of 64 parishes
  • Reversal Rank — #1 out of 64 parishes
  • Misconduct Rank Per Capita — #1 out of 64 parishes
  • Reversal Rank Per Capita — #2 out of 64 parishes

The other three prosecutors were:

Jennifer Joyce, City of St. Louis, Missouri Circuit Attorney (2000 – 2016)*

  • Misconduct Rank — #1 out of 115 jurisdictions
  • Reversal Rank — #1 out of 115 jurisdictions
  • Misconduct Rank Per Capita — #2 out of 115 jurisdictions
  • Reversal Rank Per Capita — #4 out of 115 jurisdictions

Amy Weirich, Shelby County, Tennessee District Attorney (2011 – Current)

  • Misconduct Rank — #1 out of 95 counties
  • Reversal Rank — #1 out of 95 counties
  • Misconduct Rank Per Capita — #10 out of 95 counties
  • Reversal Rank Per Capita — #6 out of 95 counties

Tony Rackauckas, Orange County, California District Attorney (1998 – Current)

  • Misconduct Rank — #3 out of 58 counties
  • Reversal Rank — #2 out of 58 counties
  • Misconduct Rank Per Capita — #5 out of 58 counties
  • Reversal Rank Per Capita — #1 out of 58 counties

The report’s Conclusion states:

“The prosecutors in these jurisdictions, all of whom are elected officials, are imbued with the public’s trust. And each and every one of them has violated it, not just on one or two occasions, but repeatedly. They have illegally concealed important evidence from the defense, made highly unethical statements and arguments, and committed other types of misconduct that undermines the integrity of criminal convictions in serious cases, and of the justice system itself. Prosecutors are tasked not just with seeking convictions, but also with seeing justice done. Our research shows that these prosecutors are failing in this task in very serious ways. They have some of highest rates of misconduct and reversals in their respective states. It is clear that the mechanisms for accountability are currently insufficient when a prosecutor breaks the law. A robust discussion about how to improve accountability and to address these injustices is sorely needed.”

Click here to read the report — The Recidivists: Four Prosecutors Who Repeatedly Violate The Constitution.

A prior FPP report about prosecutor’s was published in June 2016: “America’s Top Five Deadliest Prosecutors: How Overzealous Personalities Drive The Death Penalty.” Click here to read or download that report.

The Fair Punishment Project’s website is, www.fairpunishment.org

The Fair Punishment Project is a joint initiative of Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute and its Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, The Accountable Justice Collaborative (at The Advocacy Fund), and The Bronx Defenders.

Endnote:
* Kim Gardner became the Circuit Attorney in 2017. She defeated Joyce in the 2016 election, in part by running on a platform that pledged to pursue significant reforms. Gardner had worked as a prosecutor under Joyce from 2005 to 2010.

July 21, 2017
By Hans Sherrer
Justice Denied

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