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Missouri prosecutors gain new legal protections

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Missouri prosecutors advising police on undercover investigations now have greater legal protection that their conduct won't violate ethical rules.

A recent change to the Missouri Supreme Court's Rules of Professional Conduct explicitly allows government lawyers to collaborate on undercover operations without risking sanction for professional misconduct.

The amendment further codifies a tactic that former Cape Girardeau County prosecutor Morley Swingle calls "the oldest trick in the criminal investigator's book" - lying to a suspect to help solve a case. Swingle is now an assistant U.S. attorney.

Missouri is among 10 states to make similar revisions to its conduct codes for lawyers. Many came in response to a Colorado case in which a prosecutor's law license was suspended after he posed as a public defender to elicit a murder confession.

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