Ethics, Integrity, and Professional Development

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office has earned a national reputation for reform and innovation in the interests of justice. 

Whether it’s his overhaul of the way Suffolk prosecutors use eyewitness testimony or his continuing education requirements that go above and beyond what’s required of Massachusetts lawyers, DA Conley is committed to the highest level of professional integrity.  He implemented the Conviction Integrity Program, which brings senior prosecutors from various disciplines across the office to identify and correct potentially wrongful convictions, and created the new position of Chief of Professional Integrity & Ethics to establish policies to prevent those miscarriages of justice from occurring in the first place.

In an effort to root out wrongful convictions and prevent their recurrence, DA Conley empanelled a blue ribbon task force in 2004 with the then-commissioner of Boston Police to study the science and use of eyewitness identifications – the leading cause of miscarriages of justice nationwide.  The panel, which included defense attorneys, police, prosecutors, and the nation’s leading academic expert in eyewitness IDs, returned with a sweeping set of recommended changes in practice.  DA Conley implemented all of them, with the result that current eyewitness procedures in Boston and Suffolk County exceed even those recommended by the US Department of Justice.  Panelist Gary Wells, Ph. D., said the reforms represent the “gold standard,” and defense attorney Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project said they put Boston and Suffolk County “at the forefront of the country.”

Since taking office, DA Conley has maintained a policy of presumptive agreement with defense attorneys who file post-conviction motions for DNA testing when that evidence was unavailable at the time of trial.  Suffolk prosecutors have worked regularly with their defense counterparts to ensure access to potentially exculpatory evidence even decades after the fact.  Recent legislation allowing convicted defendants access to this evidence was based in large part on voluntary policies that DA Conley had implemented years earlier in Boston and Suffolk County.  Any motion under this legislation, any motion for a new trial based on a claim of actual innocence, or any related correspondence from a convicted defendant or his/her designee will lead the Conviction Integrity Program to review the entire case with fresh eyes.

Massachusetts is just one of only four states (along with the District of Columbia) that have no continuing legal education requirement for attorneys.  Recognizing that prosecutors need to be informed on new and developing areas of law in addition to the fundamentals, DA Conley implemented a continuing training legal education policy within his office that far exceeds what is required for Massachusetts lawyers once they pass the bar exam.  The policy mandates that all Suffolk prosecutors continue their professional development through trainings, seminars, and other presentations.  Some training opportunities are mandatory, such as those addressing the disclosure of so-called “Brady material” to defense counsel; others allow prosecutors to hone their skills in particular fields of prosecution, such as child abuse and domestic violence.  As with other Suffolk policies, the training policy goes above and beyond what’s merely necessary and guarantees that the assistant district attorneys practicing in Boston and Suffolk County can provide the highest level of advocacy for the communities they serve.

A prosecutor’s duty isn’t just to win convictions: It’s to do justice in every case, every time.  District Attorney Conley knows that every member of the office has to have the highest ethics, integrity, and professional standards in order to get the job done right.