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Posted on: November 7, 2013

County Attorney Sets the Record Straight on Prosecutorial Misconduct

PHOENIX, AZ (November 7, 2013) – In a strongly-worded response to a recent series of articles that appeared in the Arizona Republic, County Attorney Bill Montgomery corrects numerous mischaracterizations about the role and responsibilities of prosecutors in the criminal justice system. Montgomery’s response, published in today’s edition of the Republic, states the articles “did more to demean and insult the men and women responsible for holding criminals accountable on behalf of Maricopa County than it did to contribute to a meaningful discussion of capital litigation and how our justice system actually works.”

The four-part series by reporter Michael Kiefer presented selective information in an apparent attempt to show that prosecutors frequently engage in impropriety or misconduct and are rarely disciplined for doing so. “There seldom are consequences for prosecutors, regardless of whether the miscarriage of justice occurred because of ineptness or misconduct,” writes Kiefer.

In support of this and other similar claims, Kiefer cites 82 Arizona death penalty cases dating back to 2002 in which “prosecutorial misconduct was alleged on appeal by defense attorneys in 42 and the court found improprieties or outright misconduct in 18 instances.” But as Montgomery notes in his response, “by conflating impropriety with misconduct, which are not the same, Kiefer misleads readers to believe that prosecutors are rarely held accountable. The reality is the court found only two instances of prosecutorial misconduct in the 18 cases referenced, and both resulted in discipline.”

Montgomery also points out that 39 of the 82 cases involved ineffective assistance of defense counsel allegations, three of which resulted in a reversal of conviction or sentence. Kiefer’s article contains no mention of any consequences these defense attorneys faced as a result.

“I take seriously my duty to ensure we conduct prosecutions in an ethical manner. That is why we have bolstered our internal training program to underscore the special role prosecutors have in the criminal justice system,” Montgomery writes. “[The articles] missed an opportunity to detail significant changes in training and oversight within the County Attorney’s Office to enhance the professionalism daily displayed by prosecutors ethically seeking justice.”

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