Prosecutorial Discretion

Topics: Criminal law, Jury, Crime Pages: 5 (1845 words) Published: March 6, 2013
“While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States Population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned (American Progress).”
“One in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime (American Progress).”
After reading these statistics one may ponder the questions raised on behalf of the minority population challenging the legitimacy of the modern day Criminal Justice System. These are just two of many statistics, which will be discussed later, supporting the claim of the minority population that there are issues in the current system; specifically with regard to prosecutorial discretion and racial disparities in sentencing amongst the American people.

Prosecutorial Discretion is defined as the authority of the Prosecutor to decide who to charge with a crime, what charges to file, when/if charges will be dropped, whether a plea bargain will be offered, and how to utilize prosecutorial resources such as preemptive strikes. Furthermore, in states where the death penalty is in effect the prosecutor ultimately decides whether one potentially lives or dies based on the charges they choose to file. With this, one can grasp the magnitude of the power at the finger tips of the Prosecutor and see how issues can arise as a result of: unintentional or intentional bias opinions, poor ethical decisions in regard to job responsibilities, and essentially the abuse of authority towards different races.

Opinions are something that every person has and is entitled to have. This creates somewhat of a gray area in the American legal system when addressing the prosecutor’s perception of the defendant and the specific crime he/she is being accused of and also the oath a lawyer takes to fight for justice according to the law regardless of personal opinion. Granted we are all human and sometimes have emotions we cannot suppress and here’s where things get complicated. Let’s say the prosecutor, or someone close to the prosecutor, experiences a rape by a black man. When/If another black man is arrested for sexual assault is that not going to hit a nerve within the prosecutor and possibly influence what charges will be filed? Whether a plea bargain will be offered, and if not, would a white man have been offered one in the same situation? How high to set bail, if any? This type of situation occurs numerous times everyday in the courts and because there is no definitive answer to these questions, this could unlawfully and negatively impact the defendant’s case based on racial profiling.

In addition to the legal factors that have been used for decades in the decision making process, extra legal factors (age, race, gender) are also used in deciding how to proceed with a case in the modern day era. The prosecutor’s discretion for when and how to use extra legal factors in decision making negatively impacts minorities in a few different ways. Studies confirm the notion that minorities are treated differently than whites throughout the judicial process. Black and Hispanic defendants were treated less favorable than white defendants by the prosecution in regard, but not limited to, higher bail amounts and reduction of charges. According to the textbook “ whites (68%) are more likely to be released on bail than blacks (62%) (Citation 156).” This statistic may not scream racism to the average person but it does show a disparity in prosecutorial discretion and as a result can negatively impact a minorities case because if imprisoned they cannot utilize resources and ultimately properly prepare for their case. After extensive data collection and analysis it was found that “18% of persons jailed pending trial because they could not afford bail were acquitted where as 48% of persons released on bail were acquitted (Citation 143)” confirming the issue of prosecutorial discretion negatively affecting the cases of minorities. Furthermore, whites were also significantly favored when it came to reducing...
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