February 24, 2015 Articles

Procedural Due Process Rights in Cases of Prosecutorial Misconduct

By Michelle D. Golden

One of the aims of the American legal system is to protect individuals from government action that deprives them of their civil liberties. As such, the American legal system has a track record, from its inception, of protecting civil liberties from government encroachment or neglect. For example, in the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers, in deploring the actions of King George III against the colonies, asserted the right to trial by jury and the principle of the rule of law. Furthermore, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Pub. L. No. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241 (1964), affirmed a defendant's right to a fair trial by making it easier to move civil rights cases from state courts to federal courts where civil rights activists could get a more fair trial. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also gave defendants accused of criminal contempt under previous titles of the Act the right to a jury trial. In addition, the Civil Rights Act of 1965, Pub. L. No. 89-110, 82 Stat. 73 (1965), also known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, gave African Americans the civil liberty of voting. The Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are also a mechanism by which the legal system has protected certain civil liberties. The right to a fair trial, for example, is a due process concept often associated with human rights. U.S. Const. amend. VI; Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res. 217 (III) A, U.N. Doc. A/RES/217(III), at art. 10 (Dec. 10, 1948). As with slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and women's liberation, current events suggest new areas in which a premium should be placed on the protection of due process, particularly procedural due process rights in cases of prosecutorial misconduct, especially regarding policing and the use of force doctrine.

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