8 UDC/DCSL L. Rev. 275 (2004)
Wrongful Convictions: It is Time to Take Prosecution Discipline Seriously

handle is hein.journals/udclr8 and id is 281 raw text is: WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS: IT IS TIME TO TAKE
Ellen Yaroshefsky*
The primary duty of a lawyer engaged in public prosecution is not to convict,
but to see that justice is done. The suppression of facts or the secreting of
witnesses capable of establishing the innocence of the accused is highly
Ron Williamson, who came within five days of execution, and Dennis Fritz,
who served twelve years of a life sentence, were released from prison in 1999.
They were innocent men, wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of Debra
Carter. Arrested five years after her murder and tried separately, the cases
against them rested on testimony of a jailhouse informant, a jail trainee, and un-
reliable hair evidence. Fortunately, there was DNA evidence in the case, and
scientific testing exonerated Fritz and Williamson. The evidence instead impli-
cated Glen Gore, the person who should have been the prime suspect. Many of
these facts came to light only when Fritz and Williamson filed a civil rights ac-
tionlafter Williamson's conviction for murder was overturned (primarily on
grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel).2
During the course of discovery, the scope of police and prosecutorial miscon-
duct was exposed. In addition to egregious use of fabricated testimony from the
informants, the case was permeated with police and prosecutorial suppression of
exculpatory evidence. The prosecutor failed to disclose to the defense a two-hour
videotaped statement in which Williamson denied the murder and never wa-
* Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Jacob Burns Ethics Center, Benjamin N. Car-
dozo School of Law. The author appreciates the contributions of the Hon. Joel Blumenfeld, Hon.
James G. Carr, Peter Neufeld, Barry Scheck, Abbe Smith, and Larry Vogelman, and the research
assistance of Sarah Tofte of the Innocence Project, and Andrew Anissi, a student at Cardozo Law
School. It is a privilege to participate in a colloquium honoring Monroe Freedman and Abbe Smith
for their significant book Understanding Lawyers' Ethics. Thanks to the Dean of the University of the
District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, Katherine S. Shelley Broderick, for organiz-
ing the colloquium and encouraging this contribution as part of that program.
** Canon 5, The Defense or Prosecution of Those Accused of Crime.
1 Fritz v. City of Ada, Okla., Civ. No. 00-194 (E.D. Okla. filed Apr. 14, 2000) (case settled Oct.
28, 2002; discovery on file with the offices of Cochran, Neufield and Scheck, 99 Hudson St., N.Y.,
2 Williamson v. Reynolds, 904 F. Supp. 1529 (E.D. Okla. 1995), affd, Williamson v. Ward, 110
F.3d 1508 (10th Cir. 1997).

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