Critic: “Arbitrary” Prosecutors Need Bar Association Oversight


Prosecutors, are “the most powerful officials in the criminal justice system,” sayd former Washington, D.C., public defender director Angela J. Davis in a new book, “Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor.” As quoted by syndicated columnist Neal Peirce, she notes that the “charging and plea-bargaining power they exercise almost predetermines the outcome of most criminal cases. Over 95 percent of all criminal cases are resolved by a guilty plea.” Davis argues that the most serious systemwide issue isn’t the isolated, fairly rare case of a prosecutor coercing witnesses, fabricating evidence or consciously targeting racial minorities but the the lack of controls on, or accountability for, the everyday decisions of prosecutors.

Peirce says Davis would have national, state, and local bar associations conduct in-depth investigations to determine the adequacy of current prosecutorial misconduct controls, and possible reforms. She’d have bar associations set up state and/or local prosecution review boards – to receive specific complaints from the public and to undertake random reviews of prosecutions and (with colleges and universities) launch surveys to reveal discriminatory practices by race or class.


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