Prosecutors Essay, Research Paper

The Role of the Prosecutor

All serious criminal cases require the participation of three

individuals: the judge, counsel for the prosecution, and counsel for the accused.

If any one of these are absent from the procedure, Athe criminal justice system

is incomplete@ (Congress). The prosecutor stands at a critical stage in the

criminal justice system as well as playing a critical role before, during and

after the trial. They serve many functions throughout the criminal process.

Some of which are investigating, plead bargains, questioning both jurors and

witnesses, and being involved through the sentencing as well.

The first thing that must be understood is that the duty of the

prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict. It is crucial that his

obligation is to protect the innocent as well as to convict the guilty, to guard

the rights of the accused as well as to enforce the rights of the public. The

prosecutor should have the most knowledge of the work of the police in the

investigation of crimes and in the enforcement of law. The prosecutor has

tremendous amount of desecration as to what charges will be brought against an

accused person or whether to even dismiss charges based on lack of evidence.

Since his decisions account for a large share of cases that are taken into the

courts, Athe character, quality and efficiency of the whole system is shaped in

great measure by the manner in which he exercises his broad discretionary

powers@ (Britanica).

Like other lawyers, the prosecutor is subject to disciplinary actions

for conduct that is prohibited by Acodes and cannons@ (Matrix). These Acodes

and cannons@ are intended to assist and advise the prosecutor.

The majority of the prosecutor=s work load consists of cases which a

complaint was either files by a citizen or by following an arrest made by the

police. But there are instances where a citizen is unwilling to prosecute. It

is important that, under these circumstances, the prosecutor investigate

criminal acts on his own Ainitiative and independent of citizen complaints or

police activity@ (Congress). AMost prosecutors express willingness to accept

this responsibility, provided they have adequate investigative resources@


It is essential that a guilty plea is entered not only voluntarily, but

understandingly as well. A plea entered Aas a result of a prosecutor=s

promising concessions beyond his power to fulfill@ (Matrix) is involuntary and

the defendant Ais entitled to withdrawal it@ (Matrix). It is therefore

important that the prosecutor make it clear to the accused that he is not able

Ato assure the judicial consequence@ (Matrix) of a guilty plea. AWhen some but

not all charges against a defendant@ are dropped due to the plea of guilt to one

or more other charges, the prosecutor should note that this is the basis of the

guilty plea. The prosecutor should also note the participation and approval of

both the defendant and his counsel.

The process of examining prospective jurors (voir dire) is designed to

give the counsel an opportunity to determine if each juror is able to make a

decision on the case fairly and without bias. Regrettably, voir dire is often

abused by lawyers. ARecognizing the existence@ of these abuses, it has been

recommended that the questioning of jurors should Abe done by the judge allowing

counsel to make reasonable inquiry subject to the control of the court@


Another important function of the prosecutor is his responsibility to

present evidence in court. It is unethical behavior for a prosecutor to

knowingly offer false evidence, Awhether by documents, tangible evidence, or the

testimony of witnesses@ (Matrix). It is also unprofessional for a prosecutor to

present evidence which is know to be tainted for mere sake of presenting it in

plain view of Athe judge or jury which would tend to prejudice fair

consideration by the judge or jury@ (Matrix).

Another important part of the prosecutors function is the questioning of

witnesses. The prosecutor should avoid Adiscrediting or undermining a witness@

if he knows the witness is testifying truthfully (Congress). Also, when a

witness has claimed the fifth amendment (self incrimination), courts inform

jurors Afrom drawing evidentiary inferences from the fact that a witness has

claimed a privilege@ (Congress). Most courts condemn questions which attempt to

give impressions which are negative Awhen the questioner has no evidence to

support the innuendo@ (Matrix). For example, AHave you ever been convicted of

the crime of robber?@

Lastly, the prosecutor will at times Aneed to urge the courts to take a

stronger stand in sentencing@ (Congress). But it is important to realize that

the prosecutor is there to see that justice is fairly served and not to Ameasure

his effectiveness by the severity of the sentences impose in the cases he

prosecutes@ (Congress). This can be achieved if the prosecutor will not imply

to the public that his success should be measured by these Aseverity of


The prosecutor should remember that through out all things, justice

should be served. Even though they serve various functions through the course

of the criminal process, such as investigating criminal acts, plea bargaining,

questioning jurors (voir dire), questioning witnesses, and participation in the

sentencing phase, they should realize that a persons life and reputation are

stake. Even more importantly, the innocent is convicted, the guilty is also set



Library of Congress. gopher://

Matrix of Birmingham. telnet://

Britanica Online.

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