March 29, 2007
People v. Zurinaga (here) is a great case illustrating what is wrong with judges today. In Zurinaga, a prosecutor committed gross prosecutorial misconduct. The panel even concludes that the prosecutor committed the misconduct. What does the panel do?
First, it goes on for several pages about how bad prosecutorial misconduct is; and how bad the prosecutor in Zurinaga behaved. Then it affirms the conviction. (The rule that even when a prosecutor engages in misconduct, a conviction will be affirmed if evidence of guilt is substantial is not one I agree with; but it's reasonable enough that I see why others disagree.) Next, the panel refuses to name the miscreant prosecutor. Finally, the panel does not refer to the prosecutor to the state bar.
In essence, the panel of judges pounds the sand. "Oh, if only were weren't so helpless, we'd do something about prosecutorial misconduct!" Yet the judges were not helpless. They could have referred the case to the California State Bar. Or, at the least, they could have subjected the errant prosecutor to the disinfectant of light. Instead, the panel of porn stars claim impotence.
Prosecutorial misconduct is so widespread precisely because judges do nothing about it.