Chapter_6.pdf

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America’s Courts and the Criminal

Justice System, 13th Edition

Chapter 6
Prosecutors

Copyright © 2019 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives (1 of 2)

1. Discuss the two major characteristics of prosecutors

in the United States.

2. Describe the three most important entities in federal

prosecution.

3. Identify the three somewhat overlapping agencies

involved in prosecution in state courts.

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Learning Objectives (2 of 2)

4. Explain the major factors affecting the work life of

assistant district attorneys.

5. Analyze the principal factors affecting prosecutorial

ethics.

6. Outline two major examples of the expanding domain

of the prosecutor.

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Origin of the Public Prosecutor

• From Private to Public Prosecutions

– Government employees in civil service

– Evolved from private prosecutions in English

common law

– Private citizens facilitated private vengeance

– Concerns regarding due process about private

prosecutions led to public prosecutor model

• Quasi-Public Prosecutions

– Prosecution out-sourcing model

– Part-time prosecutor model

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Role of the Prosecutor

• Major Characteristics

– Broad discretion

▪ Limits on discretion during trial

▪ Prosecutorial misconduct

– Charging decisions

▪ Have total discretion

▪ Overview of focal concerns theory

▪ Focal concerns theory applied to charging

– Decentralized

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Case Close-Up: Connick v. Thompson

(1 of 2)

• Fourteen years on death row

– Prosecutor withheld evidence that might have

led to Thompson’s acquittal

• Question raised regarding DA’s office paying

for egregious prosecutorial misconduct

– Federal jury held Connick liable

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Case Close-Up: Connick v. Thompson

(2 of 2)

• U.S. Supreme Court overturned the jury’s decision,

arguing one cannot sue for civil rights violations under

Section 1983 for failure to train prosecutors based on

a single Brady violation

– Prosecutors are immune from civil law when they are

performing their role, but only enjoy immunity outside

the judicial arena (faulty advice to police)

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Courts, Controversy, and Gender Equity

• Are Sexual Assaults Against Women

Underprosecuted?

– What do you think? Are sexual assaults

underprosecuted?

– If so, is the reason because criminal justice officials

fail to adequately consider the plight of the victim or

because these cases are more likely to have evidence

problems?

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Overview of Prosecutors in the

Dual Court System (1 of 2)

Federal State

Solicitor General

• Represents the U.S. government

before the U.S. Supreme Court in

all appeals of federal criminal

cases.

• Often appears as amicus in

appeals involving state criminal

convictions.

Attorney General

• Chief legal officer of the state.

• Civil duties more extensive than

criminal duties.

• Has limited authority in criminal

prosecutions.

Criminal Division

• Prosecutes a few nationally

significant criminal cases.

• Exercises nominal supervision

over U.S. attorneys.

Chief Prosecutors and Their

Assistants

• Have great autonomy in

prosecuting felony cases.

• Typically argue cases on appeal.

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Overview of Prosecutors in the

Dual Court System (2 of 2)

Federal State

U.S. Attorneys and Their

Assistants

• Prosecute the vast majority of

criminal cases in federal courts.

• Enjoy great autonomy in actions.

Local Prosecutors

• Often handle preliminary stages

of felony cases.

• Prosecute the large volume of

cases in the lower courts.

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Prosecution in Federal Courts (1 of 2)

• U.S. Attorney General

• Three most important entities in prosecution

1. Solicitor General

▪ Third-ranking officer in DOJ

2. Criminal Division of the Justice Department

▪ Formulates criminal law enforcement policies

in federal cases

3. U.S. Attorneys

▪ Principle litigator under the direction of the

attorney general

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Prosecution in Federal Courts (2 of 2)

• U.S. Attorneys

– Appointed and serve at the discretion of the President

with the consent of the Senate

– Three statutory responsibilities

1. Prosecution of criminal cases brought by the federal

government

2. Initiation and defense of civil cases in which the United

States is a party

3. Collection of certain debts owed the federal government

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Thinking Point: U.S. Solicitor General

• Research the current U.S. Solicitor General

http://www.justice.gov/osg/index.html

– What does the website discuss regarding the

U.S. Solicitor General?

– What is the job function of the Solicitor General?

– What is the mission of the organization as a whole?

– How does someone qualify for this position?

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Prosecution in State Courts

• Three overlapping entities

1. State attorneys general

2. Chief prosecutor

3. Local prosecutor

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Thinking Point: State Prosecutors

• Locate your state attorney general, chief prosecutor,

and local prosecutor.

– Who are they?

– What are their overall job functions?

– What qualifies them for the position they currently hold?

– Are they effective in their job positions? Why or why not?

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The Prosecutor’s Office at Work

• Assistant District Attorneys

– High turnover

– Learning the job

▪ Law school provides little exposure to day-to-day

operations of the position

▪ Young prosecutors’ syndrome

– Promotions and office structure

▪ Experience leads to promotions

– Supervision

▪ Supervised by a section head

– Attempts at greater supervision

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Prosecutorial Ethics

• Representatives of both victims and the police

• Prosecutorial immunity

– Absolute immunity

▪ Within the realm of prosecutorial functions

– Qualified immunity

▪ When not acting as advocate for government

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Ethical Duties of Prosecutors

• Ethical issues different from those facing defense

attorneys

– Client of the prosecutor is the government

• Ethical issues facing prosecutors

– Disclosure of evidence

– Conflict of interest

– Discretion

– How much information to release to the public

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Key Developments Concerning

the Prosecutor (1 of 2)

• Berger v. United States (1935): The prosecutor’s

primary interest is in doing justice, not simply winning

cases.

• Imbler v. Pochtmon (1976): Prosecutors enjoy absolute

immunity from civil liability when initiating and pursuing

a criminal prosecution.

• Morrison v. Olson (1988): Independent counsel law is

constitutional.

• Burns v. Reed (1991): Prosecutors enjoy only qualified

immunity from lawsuits concerning advice given to the

police.

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Key Developments Concerning

the Prosecutor (2 of 2)

• Buckley v. Fitzsimmons (1993): Prosecutors enjoy only

qualified immunity from civil lawsuits for actions during

criminal investigations and statements made during

news conferences.

• Kalino v. Fletcher (1997): A prosecutor may be sued for

making false statements of fact in an affidavit in

support of an arrest warrant.

• Connick v. Thompson (2011): A district attorney’s office

may not be held liable under Section 1983 for failure to

train prosecutors based on a single Brady violation (or

perhaps, even a handful of Brady violations).

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Thinking Point: Casey Anthony

• Review the Casey Anthony case.

– What issues did you see with regard to the prosecution?

– What could the prosecution have done differently?

– How prepared/trained were the prosecutors for this

high-profile case?

– What was the outcome of the case?

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Prosecutors and Courtroom Work Groups

• Conflicting goals and contrasting work groups

• Political styles and contrasting work groups

– Socialization process varies

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The Expanding Domain of the Prosecutor

• Improving police–prosecutor relationships

– Promote adequate police reports and contact

between the two parties

• Community prosecution

– Crime prevention is the goal

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Case Close-Up: Burns v. Reed

• Should prosecutors be immune from civil lawsuits?

• What did the Supreme Court say?

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