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NJ Prosecutors Who Make Errors Aren't Disciplined, Report Finds

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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A report found that New Jersey prosecutors — whose mistakes may lead to convictions that are reversed on appeal — were never disciplined for their in-court errors.

The American Civil Liberties Union report (PDF) released Wednesday studied more than 500 criminal cases handled by New Jersey’s 21 county prosecutor’s offices that were heard by appeals courts between the beginning of 2005 and mid-2011. The cases dated back as far as 2001.

Appeals courts reversed convictions in 53 of the 570 cases due to prosecutorial error and found prosecutors had committed less-serious errors in more than 150 other cases.

The report found none of the prosecutors who made errors was disciplined.

Examples of errors include making emotional appeals or improper comments to members of the jury.

“Without a way to hold prosecutors accountable for all but the most outrageous violations, New Jersey leaves too many opportunities for mistakes that interfere with a fair trial,” said attorney and co-author Alexander Shalom in a statement.

Essex County was No. 1 in the state for errors, the report found.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said the county also handles 25 percent of the state’s criminal cases. The report looked at 13 cases handled by the office, she said.

The authors of the report recommended better training and disciplinary action for prosecutors accused of committing such errors.

With the Associated Press

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