Prosecutor Risk, Maturation, and Wrongful Conviction Practice
30 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2015 Last revised: 8 Jul 2020
Date Written: 2016
In this article we rethink the connection between prosecutorial experience and conviction psychology that undergirds much of the academic literature about wrongful convictions. The conviction psychology account of prosecutorial behavior asserts that prosecutorial susceptibility to cognitive biases deepens over time, thereby increasing the risk that prosecutors will become involved in wrongful convictions the longer they stay in the profession.
Our interviews with more than 200 state prosecutors call into question the basis for this asserted correlation between prosecutorial experience and risk of misconduct. The prosecutors we met consistently reported that, all else equal, prosecutors tend to become more balanced, rather than more adversarial, over time. Hence, the prosecutors who present the greatest risk of producing a wrongful conviction are those who are either inexperienced or resistant to the normal maturation process. For this reason, we suggest that wrongful conviction researchers and database designers pay closer attention to the variables associated with prosecutorial experience and resistance that might affect the development of prosecutorial maturity and the consequent risk of wrongful convictions.
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