Editor’s Note: It is the QCP policy to post all op-eds it receives with few exceptions. The views expressed in these op-eds are not the views of QCP.
For the first time in over 40 years the voters of Queens will be able to select a new District Attorney. Elections for District Attorney are critical. The cliché “nobody is above the law,” is simply not true. Prosecutors are above the law. In case-law, and statute, prosecutors are immune from lawsuit for misconduct in the court room. And to compound the problem, the New York State Committee on Character and Fitness that regulates the conduct of attorneys has refused to even investigate prosecutorial misconduct. Only the voters can hold a District Attorney accountable.
In 2013 Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes reign of error came to an end. It was not ended by another prosecutor or by any government body with oversight. Hynes removal was by the voters ushering in a new District Attorney, Ken Thompson, who created the revolutionary Conviction Review Unit (CRU). So far over 24 criminal convictions have been overturned. I was one of those 24. The election of Ken Thompson represented a giant step in a criminal justice system that has failed everyone.
But one critical point is missing. None of the Assistant District Attorneys involved in the misconduct resulting in those injustices have ever been held accountable. In fact, as journalist Ted Hamm reported last week in City Limits, a pattern has emerged in the reports by the Brooklyn CRU concealing the identities of the rogue prosecutors. With no accountability this cycle of injustice will never end.
In Queens at least half a dozen candidates are running for the office being vacated by District Attorney Richard Brown. All the candidates are calling for the creation of a CRU, which outgoing District Attorney Brown refused to create. What distinguishes Tiffany Cabán from the other candidates is that she is the only one willing to investigate prosecutorial misconduct, and, when appropriate, hold those prosecutors accountable. That is a monumental step that none of the five District Attorneys in New York City have ever done.
John O’Hara, an attorney, was wrongfully convicted by former Brooklyn District Attorney Hynes.