Stop everything: California might actually be proposing a law that could be beneficial, maybe. This is the state that in recent years has passed a law that redefined nearly all sex as rape — but only for college students, and is working to pass a bill that removes the sales tax from tampons because ... women.
But now the California legislature is considering a bill that would make it a felony for prosecutors to intentionally withhold or falsify evidence. Currently, these things are a mere misdemeanor.
I know what you're thinking. Just last week I was writing about how knee-jerk reaction bills are a bad idea. I still agree with that, and I also worry about over-criminalization, but I don't believe this bill is quite the same.
Prosecutors who subvert the process of justice are rarely punished. One of the most famous examples my readers will recognize is that of Mike Nifong, who schemed to ruin the lives of innocent young men (the Duke Lacrosse team) in order to win an election.
Though he manipulated the justice system at every step of the way, he only spent a day in jail. He was also disbarred, but considering what the kids he slandered and maliciously prosecuted faced, that hardly seems an adequate punishment.
In California, withholding and falsifying evidence seems to be an especially bad problem, writes C.J. Ciaramella of Reason.
"The justice system in Orange County, Calif., has been under intense public scrutiny since 2014, when a public defender in the capital murder case of Scott Dekraai revealed that the district attorney's office and sheriff's department had been operating a secret jailhouse informant program for years, and hiding that fact from judges and defense attorneys," Ciaramella wrote.
Ciaramella also pointed to a 2010 study from the Northern California Innocence Project that found prosecutorial misconduct to be a "critical" problem.
He also gave the examples of Deputy District Attorney Robert Murray Alan, who confessed to falsifying a transcript but was only suspended from the bar for one-month, and of Former Kern County District Attorney Ed Jakers, who faced no punishment for wrongly putting 25 men in prison over false child sex abuse charges.
So I don't believe this is a knee-jerk reaction to a single case that I don't like. This is a systemic problem in California, and likely elsewhere in the U.S. Certainly, making it a felony to withhold or falsify evidence won't make a difference if the state doesn't enforce the law, as it is currently failing to do with this crime being a misdemeanor. But perhaps the new severity of the punishment will give added weight to the seriousness of the crime.
Even without this law, the justice system needs to take more seriously the twisting and exclusion of evidence.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.