On September 19, 2022 Adnan Syed, a subject on the podcast “Serial” was released from prison, where he was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment. Syed, who was 17 years old when the 1999 killing occurred, has served over 20 years in prison, but is now serving home detention for the next 30 days, which prosecutors were given to decide if they will proceed with a new trial or drop the charges against Syed. reinvestigation occurs. Judge Melissa M. Phinn vacated the 2001 conviction of Syed because she found that the prosecution had withheld evidence that may have changed the outcome of  the case. Additionally, DNA evidence that was not available at the time of the conviction, may support the possibility of alternative suspects in the murder. What does “withholding evidence” mean? What is prosecutorial misconduct and how can it help exonerate a defendant?

Prosecutorial misconduct can unjustly destroy a person’s family, reputation, and future. If you are under investigation for any criminal offense, and sense your rights are being violated, it’s important to contact an attorney who has experience identifying any form of procedural discrimination. Identifying prosecutorial misconduct early-on may help you avoid potentially life-altering consequences. 

Common Types of Prosecutorial Misconduct?

  • Mishandling evidence or failure to provide evidence from the investigation (discovery) to the defense in a timely manner
  • Asserting facts from assumptions
  • Mishandling or coercing witnesses
  • Interfering with constitutional rights
  • Discrimination in Jury selection
  • Personal relationship to complainant

Any of the above can result in a dismissal of charges prior to conviction. Identification of such misconduct, such as failure to turn over evidence to the defense after a conviction as in Mr. Syed’s case can result in a vacating of the charges. 

The Duties of A Prosecutor

It is the duty of the prosecutor to uphold the law, but he or she must do so according to the constitutional rights of every American citizen. When it comes to criminal charges, the prosecutor arguably has more power than a judge. The prosecutor makes three major decisions once the details of a case are brought to their office. 

  • Whether or not and which criminal charges will be filed
  • Whether or not and which charges are dropped or reduced
  • Whether or not a plea bargain, including sentencing recommendations, are accepted or contested

Whether or not the prosecutor decides to move forward with criminal proceedings depends upon the seriousness of the alleged crime and the defendant’s culpability or criminal history – even if the complainant withdraws or refuses to participate in the proceedings. 

An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to take steps to influence these decisions depending on the specifics of the case. 

How An Attorney in Delaware, OH Can Ensure the Prosecution is Just

As is the case in the sport of soccer or football, being on the offense is the power position – it’s when you can score! Because the prosecutor has the scoring role in a criminal case, the office of the prosecutor must give the defense a fair chance to defend themselves. The defense has a right to know what evidence the prosecutor has against them.

An experienced criminal defense attorney ensures the prosecutor’s office provides evidence relevant to the outcome of the case so that they have the following opportunities. 

  • To review the circumstances surrounding the material with the defendant. 
  • To investigate the reliability of significant evidence 
  • To ensure any new or additional evidence is sufficiently revealed prior to trial or hearing.
  • To coordinate their own interviews of witnesses if willing
  • To conduct their own investigation into the details
  • To ensure warrants, searches, and arrests were constitutionally conducted
  • To submit motions to suppress material that should not be allowed as evidence and defend your rights at trial.

In Adnan Syed’s case, the defense did not have these opportunities because the evidence was withheld. Unfortunately, Syed has paid the price with the loss of 23 years of his freedom. 

If you are made aware you are the subject of a criminal allegation, it is imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to ensure you are treated fairly and defend your rights.

Resources: 

New York Times. September 19, 2022. www.nytimes.com

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/19/us/adnan-syed-murder-conviction-overturned.html

Criminal Justice Study Guide, 2022. Course Hero, Inc.