Prosecutorial Reform Group ITCHY in California Campaign Releases Another Video of Wrongfully Convicted Man

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By The Vanguard Staff

SACRAMENTO, CA – Another video statement targeting “wrongful convictions and lack of discipline” for California prosecutors who’ve erred, was released Monday by a national prosecutorial reform group.

“It Could Happen to You” (ITCHY), which was heavily involved in the creation of the nation’s first independent and transparent body to investigate prosecutorial misconduct—The New York State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct, is now focusing on CA prosecutors.

ITCHY is a national coalition that focuses on wrongful convictions and prosecutorial misconduct and their impact on society. The organization researches and advocates for common sense criminal justice policy reforms to prevent prosecutorial misconduct.

ITCHY made public videos and a comprehensive report critical of “bad-actor California prosecutors” in May, detailing bad convictions and CA prosecutors. (https://itcouldhappen2you.org/resources/) 

In the video released Monday, Obie Anthony, who was imprisoned for 17 years “for a murder he had nothing to do with,” documents the “pervasive prosecutorial misconduct that led to his wrongful conviction,” charges ITCHY.

Anthony collected an $8.3-million-dollar settlement from the City of Los Angeles for his wrongful prosecution, said ITCHY.

ITCHY’s previously released “California Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct” summarized 16 cases demonstrating how California courts have either exonerated individuals or ordered new trials because of misconduct of prosecutors.

ITCHY charges that “even when judges have strongly reprimanded the prosecutor for violating the law and rules of conduct, there was no action taken by the California State Bar. This includes three cases in which wrongfully convicted individuals received the death penalty.”

ITCHY maintains that “in more than 26 years the State Bar has disciplined only 13 prosecutors, and does not maintain a public record of exactly how many complaints have been filed against prosecutors or the outcome of investigations pursued by the Bar.”

The report identifies what ITCHY calls “serious misconduct, including intentionally withholding evidence the accused is legally entitled to, inducing false testimony by witnesses who are secretly given leniency and sometimes cash payments; and misleading jurors in opening and closing statements at trial.”

According to ITCHY, prosecutorial misconduct has led to most of the nearly 300 California exonerations since 1989, a little more than 200 since 2000. 

“While not all of these wrongful convictions were directly due to prosecutorial misconduct, prosecutors are in a unique position to prevent these injustices,” ITCHY said.

“While the duty of a prosecutor is to enforce rules of conduct in society and establish just consequences for individuals who break these rules, when prosecutors break their own rules, there are few if any consequences,” ITCHY added.

“The California Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct shows a disturbing pattern of improper actions, leading to wrongful convictions and the prevention of fair trials,” noted Jeffrey Deskovic, founder of The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, which underwrote the report.

Deskovic, a New York State Exoneree who spent 16 years in prison before being exonerated, is now an attorney working on wrongful conviction prevention around the country.

Bill Bastuk, National Chair of “It Could Happen to You,” said, “We believe the cases summarized in this report are just the tip of the iceberg. Currently there is no independent, transparent body empowered to investigate or deter prosecutorial misconduct.”

Yolo County CA Criminal Defense Attorney Cynthia Rodriquez added, “University of San Francisco law professor Lara Bazelon has appealed to the California Supreme Court eight cases of identified misconduct where the State Bar took no action, and the Court declined to act in every case.”

In the first video release earlier by ITCHY, Jamal Trulove of San Francisco talked about his wrongful conviction that led to a 50-years-to-life sentence.

USF Law Professor Lara Bazelon, featured in the second video, sought discipline for the prosecutor who committed proven misconduct, but failed to convince the California State Bar and California Supreme Court to do anything.

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