SEEKING INJUSTICE: A STUDY OF PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDCUT IN WASHINGTON STATE
Bang, Brandon Louis
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Prosecutorial misconduct is one of a number of factors that has been identified as partially responsible for wrongful convictions. Where many of these factors have been researched quite heavily, there is a comparative paucity of research concerning prosecutorial misconduct. When a prosecutor fails to seek justice, and engages in misconduct, it not only leads to wrongful convictions, but also to a loss of legitimacy to the criminal justice system. The current study provides the first statewide study of prosecutorial misconduct in Washington State from 2007-2016. The current research will help identify factors associated with prosecutorial misconduct and explore different avenues to reduce the frequency that prosecutorial misconduct occurs. Specifically, this study investigates the frequency, type, and causes of misconduct statewide, as well as at the county level. In order to address this, appellate court cases were read and analyzed and interviews were conducted with prosecutors in the county with the highest rate of misconduct. This study identified 373 cases of confirmed misconduct in Washington State from 2007-2016. Additionally, the type of misconduct was overwhelmingly based on an improper argument. The number of cases of misconduct were found to be unevenly distributed at the county level as well. Furthermore, organizational factors, such as culture, training, supervision, resources, and informal peer influences were found to be responsible for the high rate or prosecutorial misconduct in one county. Furthermore, evidence of misconduct being disproportionally committed by a small number of prosecutors was mixed. Deficiencies in the research knowledge base about prosecutorial misconduct are identified and future research concerning prosecutorial misconduct is suggested.