On July 13, 2017, the Fair Punishment Project issued a report highlighting systemic misconduct in several prosecutor offices across the country. Prosecutors are among the most powerful actors in the justice system: they decide how to charge cases, who to charge, and are usually the gatekeepers of both inculpatory and exculpatory information. Prosecutors are also not mere advocates; their charge is not to win at all costs, or even “win a case,” but only “that justice shall be done.” Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88 (1935). Because of high standards for review on appeal, however, it is often very difficult for courts—and the public—to thoroughly scrutinize their behavior. Moreover, prosecutors are afforded absolute immunity from suit that further shields their conduct. Given that their actions have far-reaching consequences on human lives, we believe it is important to examine their actions and share our findings with the public. For this report, we reviewed thousands of cases from four states and attempted to quantify misconduct committed by these offices. This was not an easy task, as no government agency regularly collects or publishes this data in a concerted manner. Another challenge is that definitions of misconduct vary widely—among courts, academics, members of the bar, legal ethicists, and directly impacted communities. We recognize the difficulty of this exercise, and that the results are imperfect, but believe it is of...Read More
Author: Rob Smith
Tonight’s Historic Victory In Philadelphia Shows That Voter Backlash Against America’s Most Overzealous Prosecutors Continues
“Forward thinking candidates winning local district attorney elections reflects a powerful and encouraging trend, but Larry Krasner winning tonight in Philadelphia is something of a revolution.” Robert Smith, Director of the Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School Tonight, Larry Krasner won the Philadelphia District Attorney primary race, which means he is the presumptive–and almost certain–next District Attorney of the seventh largest city in America. Krasner is a former civil rights attorney who ran on promises that he would “stop prosecuting insufficient and insignificant cases”; “treat addiction as an illness, not a crime”; “stop pursuing death sentences”; “end civil asset...Read More
The Fair Punishment Project is proud to announce the hiring of Larry Hannan as a Senior Research Fellow. Hannan has spent the last eight years as an award winning reporter at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville covering criminal justice issues. “Larry has seen how the criminal justice system works at the local level,” said Ron Sullivan, a Harvard Law School professor and co-founder of the Fair Punishment Project. “He will be a tremendous asset to us as we continue to fight for a more humane and accountable justice system.” “I have relied on Larry’s brilliant and relentless coverage of...Read More
Reaction From The Fair Punishment Project On The Florida Supreme Court’s Decision to Invalidate Approximately 150 Unconstitutional Death Sentences
Today, the Florida Supreme Court invalidated approximately 150 unconstitutional death sentences. In a decision earlier this year the same court held that Florida’s capital sentencing statute is unconstitutional because it does not require a unanimous jury decision on every question necessary to impose a death sentence. The basis of that decision dated back to a case called Ring v. Arizona, which was decided in 2002. In today’s opinion, the Court reasoned: “Defendants who were sentenced to death under Florida’s former unconstitutional capital sentencing scheme after Ring should not suffer due to the United States Supreme Court’s fourteen-year delay in applying Ring...Read More
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