PM – Research Report Highlights

The report Preventable Error: A Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct in California 1997-2009 marks the launch of the Veritas Initiative, NCIP’s investigative watchdog organization devoted to advancing the integrity of our justice system through research and data-driven reform, using the work of our preeminent experts in the field. By shining a light on issues like prosecutorial misconduct, the Veritas Initiative and the studies it publishes will serve as a catalyst for reform.

What We Do and Who We Are

What we do:

The costs of the prolonged criminal litigation that prosecutorial misconduct can entail are staggering, through retrials—some defendants were tried as many as four times—and multiple appeals.

This initiative is an investigative watchdog devoted to advancing the integrity of our justice system through research and data-driven reform. Using the work of preeminent experts in the field from the highly respected legal resource, the Northern California Innocence Project, this group is working to shine a light on our justice system to ensure fairness and accountability.

The research on prosecutorial accountability is the most comprehensive, up-to-date, quantitative and actionable study on how attorney accountability plays a part in wrongful conviction. Using the work of Kathleen Ridolif and Maurice Possley, preeminent experts in the field, it assesses and measures attorney accountability in California justice system, identifying flaws and recommending remedies.

This research is only the first step to addressing flaws in our system and taking meaningful action to ensure accountability and fairness in our system.

Who We Are: Preventable Errors Research Team

Two recent studies have shown the alarming frequency in which courts upheld convictions of innocent people, including in cases of prosecutorial misconduct, incorrectly finding harmless error.

Kathleen (Cookie) Ridolfi
Kathleen (Cookie) Ridolfi is a tenured member of the SCU law faculty. She founded the Northern California Innocence Project in 2001 and in 2004 co-founded the Innocence Network, a collaboration of 49 innocence projects in the United States and in four other countries. From 2004-2008, she served as Commissioner of the California Senate Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice.

Professor Ridolfi was a trial lawyer with the Defender Association of Philadelphia where she served in the Special Defense Unit. She was a pioneer and innovator in the early development and application of social science to jury selection and a leader in the development of expert testimony for use in cases of battered women raising claims of self-defense.

Maurice Possley
Maurice Possley, NCIP investigator and researcher and Santa Clara Law Visiting Research Fellow, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who left the Chicago Tribune in 2008 after nearly 25 years as an investigative reporter specializing in criminal justice. While there, in addition to winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2008, he was a three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for his work on wrongful convictions and wrongful executions. His work helped free innocent people from prison as well as expose the tragic executions of innocent people.

Jessica Seargeant
Jessica Seargeant graduated from Santa Clara Law School in 2009 after having completed her Bachelor of Arts at the University of California, San Diego. Ms. Seargeant started working with NCIP in 2008, first by taking the course during law school and then working as a research assistant. After being admitted to the California State Bar, she came back to NCIP as a part of the law school’s post-graduate fellowship program, transitioning into a full-time research attorney at NCIP, focusing on prosecutorial misconduct at the Veritas Initiative.



You may download the Prosecutorial Misconduct Exec Summary