After spending more than 25 years in prison, Bobby Joe Maxwell, aka “the Skid Row Stabber,” had his conviction overturned near the end of 2010 because federal court judges determined that a prosecutor in the Los Angeles DA's office messed up big time and committed misconduct.
Earlier in the year, the California appeals court reversed the conviction of Eric Hester, an accused rapist, after it was discovered that another prosecutor in the LA DA's office committed misconduct, making several improper statements to jurors during his closing argument.
In all, there were nine cases in Los Angeles County – out of 26 cases throughout California in 2010 – that researchers with the Northern California Innocence Project listed in a report wherein prosecutor misconduct led to a conviction or sentence being set aside.
The study, aimed at bringing attention to the issue of prosecutor misconduct, details 102 cases in 2010 where courts found wrongdoing by district attorneys. Roughly a quarter of the cases resulted in a new trial or overturned conviction.
Researchers also examined cases ranging from 1997 to 2010 and found more than 800 misconduct cases, 25 percent of which harmed the conviction.
During that 13 year time span, 107 prosecutors were found to have committed misconduct more than once and made up almost one-third of the total number of misconduct cases.
One of the report's authors, Maurice Possley, told CNN that the State Bar of California is investigating misconduct cases uncovered by researchers in a similar report released last year.
Possley emphasized the importance of scrutinizing prosecutors' performance and said that at stake “is the integrity of the criminal justice system and how it is perceived in the public.”