You've heard the stories. A prosecutor withholds evidence he thinks may be beneficial to a defendant. The defendant proceeds in ignorance of that evidence and is convicted. The evidence eventually comes to light, and the defendant is exonerated or given a new trial. These stories make for sensational headlines: misbehavior, intrigue and, eventually, justice. But overwhelmingly, instances of prosecutors failing to share favorable evidence with defendants are seldom this blatant, or simple.
On a baseball field, players back up teammates to limit the damage from errors. The Justice Department, embarrassed by an error that caused a mistrial of Roger Clemens last year, has added more prosecutors in hopes of containing any missteps as it seeks to convict the famed pitcher of lying to Congress when he said he never used performance-enhancing drugs.
Justice Department prosecutors bungled the investigation and prosecution of Sen. Ted Stevens, a probe that was permeated by the "systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence," in some instances intentionally, that would have independently corroborated his defense and testimony, a court-ordered report released Thursday says.