Did You Know?

Video Evidence: A Primer for Prosecutors

Video evidence is exploding. Surveillance videos, YouTube clips, smart phone recordings and body worn camera videos are frequently part of the evidence in a case. This primer provides guidance for managing video evidence in the office and for introducing it in court. Read

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Customer Working Groups

Prosecutors, Police and Public Forensic Laboratories Working Together

Forensic evidence is an increasingly important part of a criminal case. As a result, it is critical for prosecutors and police to work closely with their public forensic laboratories to understand its procedures and the reliability of its tests. A Customer Working Group is an excellent way to achieve this goal.

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President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Recommends that Some Forensic Evidence Should Not Be Introduced in Federal Court

On September 19, 2016, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a 174-page report titled “Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods”. Read

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Prosecutor Seminars in Law Schools

Prosecutor-focused courses in law schools are an excellent way for prosecutors to expose law students to their work and to have students available to do research on prosecution issues.  Statewide Best Practices Committees have benefited from working with their local law schools to develop classes that can focus on emerging issues and policy questions. 
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Community Programs

One of the many benefits of being part of the Best Practices network is the ability to share information with prosecutors across the country about promising programs and how to implement them.  Prosecutors’ Center for Excellence (PCE) held a two-day conference in Boston on July 19 and 20, 2016 with prosecutors from 17 states in attendance.  One topic was how to create community programs on a shoe string.

Here is a sampling of the varied – and excellent — programs highlighted during the meeting:

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Considerations for Assessing Jailhouse Informants

An often difficult decision faced by prosecutors is whether to use evidence provided by a so-called jailhouse informant. Individuals, when incarcerated, may let their guard down with other inmates and speak freely about the crime with which they have been charged. They may also (perhaps falsely) claim to have committed some heinous act simply in an effort to “impress” fellow inmates. At the same time, inmates facing other charges may try to barter with law enforcement, providing information allegedly learned from a fellow inmate in exchange for some benefit, such as a lesser sentence. The negotiating inmate may have truly learned the information from the fellow inmate or may simply be making up a false statement to curry favor. It is left to the prosecutor to sort through all of these possibilities to get to the truth. PCE offers the following considerations to assist prosecutors in evaluating whether to call as a witness an informant (hereinafter “informant”) who purports to have heard incriminating statements from a fellow inmate (hereinafter “defendant”). It is understood that it may not be possible to follow every consideration listed below.

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Witness Intimidation – What You Can Do To Protect Your Witness

Witness intimidation and witness tampering can occur in any case, from simple misdemeanors to homicides. It has a variety of consequences from the silencing of an entire community, to the murder of a witness, to the recantation of truthful testimony. Though witness intimidation is an insidious problem, there are strategies throughout the investigation and prosecution of a case that can help to keep a witness safe and reduce the impact of intimidation.

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Approaches to Reporting the Results of Investigations into Police Involved Fatalities

June 30, 2016 — Volume 15

There has been great scrutiny of police-involved fatalities and how they are handled by prosecutors. Here are four thoughtful approaches by prosecutors on how they have reported their findings when no criminal charges are brought (in alphabetical order by jurisdiction). Three articles on this subject are also included.

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Recording Interrogations – Support by Prosecutors

June 23, 2016 — Volume 14

Around the country, prosecutors have supported the recording of custodial interrogations and have pushed for the creation of voluntary policies and, in some instances, endorsed legislation. Police have embraced this technology as well. The Colorado Best Practices Committee issued a report providing a national perspective on the progress made in this area. Also included are sample policies and articles from other states that reflect prosecutor’s leadership in promoting the recording of interrogations.  Much of this work was spearheaded by Best Practices Committees.

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National Best Practices Meeting

May 19, 2016 — Volume 12

Boston – July 19 and July 20, 2016

BP Committees around the nation are spearheading exciting initiatives. Come to share ideas, get energized and enjoy each other’s company.

Prosecutors and prosecution coordinators from states with established committees and those considering starting a BP committee are invited to attend the National Best Practices meeting in Boston on Tuesday, July 19th, and half a day on Wednesday, July 20th (following the NDAA Summer Conference). Meetings will be held at the Westin Boston Waterfront, 425 Summer Street, Boston, Massachusetts. Hotel rooms can be reserved through NDAA (www.ndaajustice.org).

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