Prosecutors have great power. This does not only flow from the discretion they have in choosing whether or not to bring certain charges. It also involves the questionable tactics that they sometimes use before or during trial, such as withholding evidence from the defense. Sometimes such tactics cross the line and become prosecutorial misconduct.
In a recent case in New York, a 26-year-old man whose sex crime charges were dismissed has sued the district attorney's office. The suit not only alleges malicious prosecution, but also malicious prosecution and false imprisonment. The dynamics of the case shed light on how serious the issues are with charges of sex offenses in St. Louis or elsewhere in Missouri.
In the New York case, a man was jailed at Rikers Island for ten months without bail. The sex offense charges against him were finally dismissed when difficult questions arose regarding the credibility of the accuser and how prosecutors handled potentially exculpatory evidence.
The case had begun with much fanfare. It included charges against three other co-defendants on allegations of rape, assault and sex trafficking charges.
But it began to come apart when a police report became available indicating a key witness, an alleged rape victim, changed her story.
An assistant district attorney resigned when she refused to yield to pressure to keep prosecuting the case despite the alleged victim's partially recanted story.
A case like this provides an unsettling window into the lengths that prosecutors sometimes go to in trying to get convictions. It can happen anywhere in the country, given our adversarial system. That's one reason why defense lawyers are so important - to protect against prosecutorial overreaching.
Source: "Ex-Defendant Sues Prosecutors After Rape Charge Is Dropped," New York Times, Alan Feuer, 10-9-12