Model Rule Rule 3.8: Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor emphasizes the special role and responsibilities of prosecutors in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors are not just advocates seeking convictions; they are also obligated to ensure that justice is done, and that the rights of the accused are protected.
The Prosecutor's Duty to Seek Justice
Prosecutors are not merely advocates for the government but also ministers of justice. They have a duty to see that the defendant is accorded procedural justice and that guilt is established by lawful and ethical means.
Disclosure of Exculpatory Evidence
Prosecutors are required to make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, mitigate the offense, or impeach the credibility of a witness.
Duty to Remediate Wrongful Convictions
If a prosecutor discovers new, credible, and material evidence that creates a reasonable likelihood that a convicted defendant did not commit the offense, the prosecutor must take steps to remedy the conviction.
Special Responsibilities in Plea Bargaining
Prosecutors should not seek, or offer, a guilty plea or an agreement to a lesser charge if they have reason to believe that the defendant is not guilty of the offense charged.
Trial Conduct and Fairness
Prosecutors should refrain from making improper comments to the jury, introduce inadmissible evidence, or engage in conduct intended to prejudice the accused. They should also avoid conduct that may disrupt a fair trial.
Respect for Constitutional and Legal Rights
Prosecutors must respect the constitutional and legal rights of all persons and should not use their position to intimidate, harass, or unduly pressure individuals.
Supervision of Subordinates
Prosecutors are responsible for the ethical conduct of their subordinates, including law enforcement personnel, and must take measures to ensure compliance with these rules.
Prosecutors must avoid making public statements that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused unless such statements are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor's action and serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose.
Prosecutors should cooperate in post-conviction proceedings to rectify convictions that may have been obtained in violation of the defendant's rights.
Rule 3.8 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct underscores the critical duty of prosecutors to seek justice rather than mere convictions. It places a strong emphasis on ethical behavior, fairness, and respect for the rights of the accused throughout the criminal justice process. This rule serves to maintain public trust in the legal system and ensures that prosecutors act as stewards of justice rather than mere advocates for the state.