Most people do not understand the awesome power of prosecutors (aka district attorneys or attorney generals) or the term "prosecutorial discretion." Media disinformation and disinfotainment about prosecutors and their role in the lex-icon is an intentional part of our conditioning in the Spectacle.
Prosecutors have the power to decide; whether to charge a person with a crime, what charges to paper, whether to seek pre-trial confinement or release and what, if any, release conditions to seek, whether to divert prosecution with community service or fine, what kind of plea offer to make, what resources to expend to prosecute, what information to disclose to the defense, what kind of sentence to seek & recommend to the court (such as confinement, probation or to defer the imposition of a sentence), whether the death penalty will be sought and whether probation should be revoked or extended. They also have a say in whether to seal arrest records or expunge criminal convictions. Further, prosecutors set broad policies, deciding the aggressiveness with which different laws will be enforced, and other law enforcement officials often follow their lead.
Said decisions are overwhelmingly made by white people about non-white people because the vast majority of prosecutors are white and criminal defendants are disproportionately non-white. Specifically, according to a recent study, 95 percent of the 2,437 elected state and local prosecutors across the country are white, and 79 percent are white men (by comparison, white men make up 31 percent of the population of the United States). Also most States have no Black prosecutors. [MORE]. On the federal level 87% of all US Attorneys are white - as 8% of assistant U.S. Attorneys are African American and 5% are Latino. [MORE] and [MORE]. In a system of injustice prosecutors face only token punishment for wrongful convictions & concealing exculpatory evidence. [MORE]
From [HERE] Connecticut is expected to become the first state to collect statewide criminal case data from prosecutors broken down by the defendants’ race, sex, ethnicity, age and ZIP code.
In votes in late May and early June, Connecticut legislators unanimously approved the transparency bill known as SB 880, report the Associated Press and the Connecticut Mirror. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont had backed the bill and was expected to sign it.
The bill requires the state to collect statistics on arrests, diversionary programs, case dispositions, plea agreements, cases going to trial, court fines and fees, and restitution orders.
Lamont said the bill will provide the public with greater insight into prosecutors’ decisions. “This data will provide insight into the front end of the system, which has historically been a ‘black box’ and will help ensure that justice is attained in the fairest ways possible,” he said in a press release after Senate passage of the bill.
State Rep. Steven Stafstrom of Bridgeport, who co-chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said the bill will allow for analysis in variations of delivery of justice. “It tends to be courthouse by courthouse—or sometimes prosecutor by prosecutor,” he told the Connecticut Mirror.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut supported the bill. In an op-ed in the Connecticut Mirror, the group’s executive director and its Smart Justice field organizer said prosecutors wield tremendous power and their decisions deserve scrutiny.
They pointed out that, nationwide, 95% of criminal cases end in plea bargains. That means that most of the time, prosecutors decide how a case is resolved, they wrote.
The Associated Press also pointed to information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics showing racial disparities in imprisonment nationwide. The imprisonment rate for sentenced black men in 2017 was more than twice the rate of sentenced Latino men and nearly six times the rate of sentenced white men.
The AP also cited a study of plea bargains in Wisconsin that found that white defendants were 25% more likely than black defendants to have their charges dropped or reduced to lesser crimes.