Lorenzo’s latest on the Huffington Post. You can also read it here.
Are Some Prosecutors Experts At Wrongful Conviction?
by Lorenzo Johnson
To be clear, this article in is no way directed at those government agents and prosecutors who do not abuse their power to seek or maintain false convictions. But since 1989, almost 2,000 people have been exonerated of crimes they never committed — a number that just scratches the surface of the true tally of wrongful convictions. Most of these people were sentenced to the death penalty, life sentences, or decades in prison. The average time they spent in prison was between 13½ and 15 years. And again, that’s only those who were fortunate enough to be exonerated. The rest of us — and there are many of us — have to fight daily to expose our innocence and the injustice we have suffered.
When wrongful convictions are viewed as mistakes while new records of exonerations are set yearly, we have to ask: are we turning a blind eye to injustice or does society just not want to call it for what it really is?
In exoneration cases over the last two years, prosecution misconduct was responsible for 75% of the wrongful convictions. Prosecutors’ practices of abusing their authority take many forms: false confessions, false witnesses, withholding favorable evidence, and much more. These tactics are used daily to secure false convictions. The chosen victims? The poor and less fortunate. Sadly, in many instances, our criminal justice system has actively encouraged these prosecutors to get guilty verdicts by any means necessary, and then stand by the most questionable convictions.
The Supreme Court decision Brady v. Maryland (1963) holds that if prosecutors fail to provide favorable evidence that is material either to guilt or to punishment in response to a case discovery request, this failure violates due process. The use of materiality as an element of determining Brady disclosures has created huge problems, however. Prosecutors have often used the claim that evidence wasn’t “material” to guilt or punishment as an excuse for failing to disclose favorable evidence. This is wrong — materiality is impossible to determine pretrial. Why? The government does not know the theory of the defense.
Finally, 53 years after Brady v. Maryland, and with almost 2,000 exonerations since 1989, the state of California has had enough of government agents’ and prosecutors’ misconduct. As of October 2016, California prosecutors who knowingly withhold or falsify evidence can now be charged with a felony and go straight to prison under a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D). A brave California Assemblywoman, Patty Lopez (D), introduced this bill (AB1909), making withholding evidence or falsifying of evidence by a prosecutor a felony in California.
This new law is like a breath of fresh air for us innocent prisoners, who have suffered from this misconduct for decades by false imprisonment. AB1909 should not only be spoken about but enacted in law in EVERY state to ensure justice for ALL.
The million dollar question is: are all states going to adopt this bill to bring an end to innocent prisoners’ worst nightmares? Once again, this article is not directed at prosecutors whom do not take part in malicious tactics that shatter innocent prisoners’ and our families’ lives. For too long, these continuous crimes have gone unpunished. It’s time to bring an end to this madness. Only time will tell how seriously our system takes prosecution misconduct.
Lorenzo Johnson served 16 and a half years of a life-without-parole sentence until 2012, when the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled there was legally insufficient evidence for his conviction. He remained free for four months, after which the US Supreme Court unanimously reinstated the conviction and ordered him back to prison to resume the sentence. With the support of The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, he is continuing to fight for his freedom. Though he does not have internet access himself, you can email his campaign, make a donation, or sign his petition and learn more at: http://www.freelorenzojohnson.org/sign-the-petition.html.