Prosecutors bring criminals to justice through significant analysis, preparation and argument before a judge and jury.
Attorneys are powerful authority figures and as such, the Missouri Bar holds them to very high legal and ethical standards. Any professional transgression could constitute prosecutorial misconduct.
Disparaging a defendant
Prosecuting attorneys cannot make prejudicial comments about defendants before or during the trial, including during opening and closing arguments. They must formulate statements based on facts, not personal opinions about guilt or innocence. Additionally, they should not disparage the defendant’s counsel or witnesses, and they cannot comment on the defendant’s decision not to testify during the trial.
The state should base its arguments on evidence pertaining to the case. Prosecutorial misconduct occurs when a prosecutor:
- Presents false or incomplete evidence during the trial
- Fails to disclose evidence in its possession or exculpatory evidence that benefits the defendant in a criminal case
- Attempts to destroy or tamper with evidence
- Solicits or coerces a witness to lie under oath
As officers of the court, prosecutors are in an official position of power. In their efforts to balance the scale of justice, they sometimes go too far. A state’s attorney commits prosecutorial misconduct when he or she advocates for unreasonably high bail costs, inflates charges or strongarms innocent defendants into plea negotiations to avoid trial.
Prosecutor misconduct ruins lives and undermines the credibility of the judicial process. If you are a victim of wrongful conviction due to bad lawyering and an unfair trial, you deserve a chance to seek vindication and fight for post-conviction relief.