NPR investigation finds that prosecutors in Ohio who break the rules rarely face discipline

Ernie Haynes stands next to a memorial for his daughter, Jennifer, at his home in Risingsun, Ohio. Following her drug overdose death in 2017, he was charged with abduction after trying to gain custody of his grandchildren. The action sparked a five-year legal battle to clear his name.

Columbia Journalism Investigations, NPR, its member station WVXU in Cincinnati and the Ohio Newsroom built a first-of-its-kind database about prosecutorial misconduct by analyzing thousands of pages of Ohio state court appellate decisions from 2018 to 2021. With support from the Fund, the team examined hundreds of cases to identify claims of prosecutorial misconduct, and also reviewed hundreds of pages of police records and personnel files. Their reporting found that in most cases where appeals courts found that prosecutors acted improperly, the prosecutors failed to disclose evidence and made improper statements in closing arguments. None of the prosecutors involved in repeated improper-conduct cases was sanctioned by the Ohio Supreme Court, the body ultimately charged with attorney discipline, and many moved on to hold powerful positions – including two who became judges. The story aired on NPR’s Morning Edition and on member stations in Ohio.