Sunday, August 21, 2011

Welcome!

A prosecutor holds a lot of power over the lives of citizens. There is a specific name for this - prosecutorial discretion. A District Attorney can choose who to charge with crimes, what crimes to charge, whether a plea bargain should be offered, and has the ability to recommend what sentence is appropriate to the court.

Think about that. One person has the power to bring charges against a citizen and present evidence to a grand jury. One person has the power to choose whether a citizen should be charged with a murder, manslaughter, or not charged at all because a killing was legally justified. One person has the power to offer a plea bargain to a reduced charge that may allow a person to seek treatment or probation whereas the higher charge could lead to state prison.

The powers are broad and each prosecutor must remember our ethics when making such decisions. There is a tremendous responsibility in this discretion and I watch the people in the district attorney's offices work hard everyday to remember this responsibility.

That is why I wanted to start this blog. There are wonderful people in law enforcement doing their absolute best to uphold the laws of this country and I hope to give the public a forum to understand exactly what we do. I'll use my discretion on here to talk about criminal law issues, the court system, police work, amusing court stories, books, and probably a lot of other issues that may relate to criminal prosecution.

The idea for this blog came to me when I answered a question for the thousandth time - What do you do? It's simple enough to answer. I usually tell people I work for the DA's office, or the District Attorney's Office. 999 times out of 1000 the response from the person asking the question is a variation of "how does it feel representing those criminals?"

Maybe they think DA stands for defense attorney? I usually follow this up with "No. Have you seen Law and Order? I'm like Jack McCoy. The prosecutor." Then, they nod to say they understand. I hope they do and the conversation ends while the questioner probably thinks I'm a little full of myself for acting like I'm a famous actor. It would take me hours to explain what a prosecutor does, which is more than the polite cocktail conversationalist was looking for. So I take the shortcut and give them an example. Now that the show is cancelled, I'm going to have to work on my answer. Or, we can get a few million people to read this blog and understand what a prosecutor does.

I hope to enlighten, inform, and amuse. I appreciate your feedback in any form you wish.

8 comments:

  1. Welcome to blogging! It's great to have another prosecutor out there. Looking forward to reading your posts!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Agreed! Welcome, I feel like now I have a little back-up.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excited to read your insights on the criminal justice system, I hope to one day be a prosecutor myself!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the welcome comments. @Stacym25 - good luck and let me know if you have any questions about being a prosecutor. As you can see from this blog, prosecutors have a great support network.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Have you noticed lately that high profile acquittals or dismissals seem to generate endless criticism that "justice" has not been done? Does conviction equal justice? Does adquittal equal lack of justice? Do you think equating justice with conviction is on the rise? Do you think it is related to the surge in so-called victims' rights laws? Do you think it is correct that recent laws try to balance victims' rights with defendants' rights? Do you agree that a defendant's rights are personal to him or her and guaranteed by the US Constituion and victims' rights can never be at the same level? Yes, I'm a deputy public defender and I'm curious what a prosecutor thinks.

    ReplyDelete
  6. There's a lot to address and I hope you check back for future posts concerning these topics. So I hope some short answers suffice for now. I think that legal commentators who need to take a postion to generate ratings and a person's immediate ability to give an opinion via social media play a large factor in the criticism. Justice is difficult to define, much like reasonable doubt, but I do not define it in terms of convictions and acquittals. It starts at the arrest and an appropriate investigation to determine we have sufficient proof to say we have the right person. A defendant's rights are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and prosecutors, not just defense attorneys, need to fight for their protection by dismissing or reducing charges where the only evidence was obtained in violation of those rights. As I said, a long reply and I'll address the victim's rights issue in a coming post. I appreciate your questions and am always interested in hearing "the other side's" thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I say this as a prosecutor myself, but goddamn you seem full of yourself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Appreciate the feedback. Ego is something all trial attorneys must deal with, right?

      Delete