Trial and Error: A Comprehensive Study of Prosecutorial Conduct in NJ

September 9, 2012

As a whole, prosecutors understand the unique role they play in the administration of justice and take their responsibilities seriously. They seek diligently to avoid errors that could undermine both the integrity of the criminal justice system and the validity of their hard-fought convictions. When prosecutors err, and transgress rules established for their conduct, they generally learn from their mistakes and avoid repeated missteps.

However, a small group of prosecutors commits multiple errors without seeming to learn from those missteps. This American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey study aims to comprehensively survey prosecutorial error in New Jersey by examining the prevalence of error and determining which errors occur most frequently. The report examines the contexts in which prosecutors were cited for error on multiple occasions and explores the costs of prosecutorial error for criminal defendants, for society and for individual prosecutors.

The authors sought to determine current and potential steps taken to address prosecutorial error, and this report proposes ways for prosecutors’ offices, courts, ethics boards and defense attorneys to combat prosecutorial error going forward.