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Over the last two years, a scandal involving both has engulfed Orange County, California, exposing systemic violation of defendants’ constitutional rights and calling into question the legality of the prosecution of a number of violent felony cases. In 1982, in Newport News, VA, a young man in a sailor's uniform broke into a local home, beat a man to death, then spent hours raping his wife while their three small children slept in the next room.
What makes the Orange County situation particularly troubling is its eerie similarity to another such scandal that unfolded just miles to the north, in Los Angeles County, starting in the late 1970s, and culminated in an exhaustive grand jury report that detailed widespread misuse and abuse of criminal informants and revealed questionable prosecutorial tactics, potentially in more than 200 cases. Keith Harward was convicted based on bite mark evidence sworn to by two dentists, and his identification by a security guard who police had hypnotized first.
Disciplining or firing miscreants may be necessary, but it's not enough: It doesn't address the root causes of fearful culture and bad incentives.
A USA TODAY investigation documented 201 criminal cases across the nation in which federal judges found that prosecutors broke the rules.
But wait -- the most recent DNA evidence determined that the semen found on Curdy’s girdle excluded Harris – and instead matched another man in the CODIS database. In 1994, Richard Bryan Kussmaul, James Edward Long, Michael Dewayne Shelton and James Wayne Pitts Jr.
Those convictions would likely have not been possible but for the testimony of a forensic lab manager who, it turns out, cheated on his certification test. were charged with the 1992 rape of 17-year-old Leslie Murphy and her murder and that of 14-year-old Stephen Neighbors.
Only when the victim was caught selling cocaine did the prosecutor stop believing her, and join the defense in a motion to vacate the conviction.
Kussmaul is still in prison, and all four defendants want their innocence to be a matter of record. Prosecutorial misconduct and the misuse of jailhouse informants are persistent problems in the criminal justice system.