Defense lawyers are not much loved – at least, the expensive kind who are presumed to always be getting their guilty-as-hell but rich clients off on some technicality. And this is certainly worth being watchful of, if justice is something which we think shouldn’t be bought, must be available to all, and should give everyone an equal chance.
But what about prosecutors? Lack of oversight there is also something that opens up frightening possibilities for abuse and injustice, and is something that many in the legal profession are seriously concerned about.
The ACLU is especially concerned about this, highlighting the hundreds of cases where courts have found prosecutorial misconduct (707 instances in California in a thirteen-year period), and the almost insignificant rate of countermeasures taken (a total of six prosecutors disciplined during that time). Multiple times, people have ended up on death row in cases where, for instance, prosecutors withheld evidence that might have overturned a guilty verdict.
Right now, the system seems designed to motivate many of its participants – defense lawyers, prosecutors, etc. – toward the goal of “make sure our side wins”, instead of “learn as much about the truth as possible” or “try to ensure the greatest amount of justice done”. As it is, why wouldn’t people hide evidence that would hurt the case they’ve been trying to make, or allow it to get “lost”? When everyone’s taking sides and simply trying to win, and there are no significant recriminations for breaking some of these rules, what reason would anyone find to play fair?
Of course, there’s one very simple step we could implement which would fix all these problems and make everything wonderful, and I’ll tell you what that is right now. All we have to do OH SHIT A TIGER RUN