Influence and Authority of Prosecutors
Modern-day prosecutorial teams and the police have considerable influence and authority in almost all criminal and civil cases right from the start of investigations to sentencing of any criminal defendant after a conviction (Rosenfeld, 2005). From the prosecutor, this enormous levels of influence and authority comes from discretion the criminal justice system has vested in them to make a decision on whether to conduct an investigation, whether to file charges, when to file those charges and, most controversially, whether to provide a plea bargain or offer leniency. Considering the present sentencing regime for federal cases, prosecutors have the primary control of a case and not the trial judges. In the criminal justice system, it is agreeable that prosecutors have more power than any other actors.
They possess the power to proceed with a case or to dismiss the charges. They have the ability to draw up a deal with defendants or to request severe sentences. If any kind of power is unchecked or closely monitored, then there is bound to be some sort of abuse. Prosecutors are no different from other office-abusers since they at times engage in activities that can be classified as gross misconduct. The perception of the public regarding the integrity of legal system is weakened by any kind of prosecutorial misconduct, and it additionally undermines the capability of a court to achieve any form of justice (Rosenfeld, 2005). A large number of experienced practitioners share the opinion that a vast majority of all prosecutors practice in ethical manners. However, it is not surprising that a good number of prosecutors abuse this authority and exercise their influence in a way that calls into doubt fairness and the cause of their actions. According to a police report, of all the DNA exonerations, 50% of the determining factors were due to the police misconduct while prosecutorial misconduct makes up for 45% of factors (Department of Justice, 2009).
Criminal Law to Prosecutor
All factors of the criminal law observed, a prosecutor may find a reason to prosecute anyone provided they get time and motive. In an effort to get a conviction, a good and otherwise ethical prosecutor may intentionally fail to turn over factual evidence that may favor the defendant in an evidence presentation to guilt or severe punishment. Hiding of evidence in a criminal case is one of the greatest rational and fact finding that would otherwise prove defendant’s innocence. Such acts are a deprivation of the due process. Between 1963 and 1999 only, about 390 cases nationally had homicide convictions ruled out since the prosecutors had intentionally concealed evidence. Of the 390 defendants, about 70 had a death penalty to face. This goes a long way to show that the consequences of such gross misconduct, if undiscovered, might bear serious results to involved parties. Under prosecutorial misconduct, cases are retried, convictions reversed, very expensive appeals are brought (costing the taxpayer), and public trust in the system is ruined (Ridolfi and Mulay, 2012).
The above case, where an otherwise ethical prosecutor crosses over and becomes unethical, has several motivations. If a prosecutor intentionally conceals evidence or gives a plea bargain where unnecessary, or pleads for leniency or severe punishment, then there must be underlying factors for this kind of misconduct (Sands et al., 2006). Most prosecutors have political ambitions and have a goal to achieve the next higher office. They may also be politically influenced. However, other prosecutors have an ego that needs to be fed by the number of convictions they achieve. They refuse to take second looks at evidence since they have that one thing that would send the defendant to jail. Some even go an extra mile to plant evidence on a defendant without care or concern of the consequences.
In conclusion, to prevent such occurrences, the government through the criminal justice system needs to put up a mechanism where the prosecutors have no primary control over cases and that they be under supervision from a higher office. This will go a long way to prevent injustices seen in the system and help curb prosecutorial misconduct.
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