Prosecutors are held to the highest legal and ethical standards in the law because of our unique powers and responsibilities. Over 60 years ago, the United States Supreme Court recognized that a prosecutor “is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done …” This responsibility is reflected in the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar Rule 4‑3.8 stating, “[a] prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate.” Thus, a prosecutor serves two masters ‑ society and justice. By the nature of our position, prosecutors should not only direct the power of the government against the accused, but for the accused. Based upon these beliefs, State Attorney Fernandez Rundle is committed to ensuring the integrity of the convictions we obtain and protecting the wrongfully accused.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle created the Justice Project in 2003 to examine cases that may have resulted in wrongful convictions. While prosecutor’s offices around Florida and the United States have recently established similar units that are often called “Conviction Integrity Units,” we are proud to have been a pioneer in this area.
The unit originally reviewed inmates’ request for DNA testing. Though state law allowed prosecutors to ignore older DNA evidence, State Attorney Fernandez Rundle refused to utilize that option because she believes that honesty and integrity are a prosecutor’s guiding lights and there is no deadline on innocence.
For example, we recently vacated sentences or dismissed dozens of cases involving multiple individuals falsely accused by Biscayne Park Police Department officers of a variety of offenses. In total, we vacated six misdemeanor cases and 36 felony cases involving adults and eight cases involving juveniles. We also vacated 26 arrest warrants (bench warrants and alias capias).