PROSECUTORIAL CHARGING PRACTICES PROJECT
Local prosecutors drive our nation’s criminal justice system. Prosecutors decide whether to charge a person with a crime and decide what charges to file. The Deason Center’s Prosecutorial Charging Practices Project offers a unique window into these critical prosecutorial charging practices. Through an innovative mixed-methods empirical study, the Prosecutorial Charging Practices Project provides a holistic account of prosecutors’ charging practices. Launched in January of 2017, the project takes a deep dive into the work of three prosecutor’s offices in discrete geographic locations. Along the way, the study explores how prosecutors engage with police, consider evidence, and assess the public’s interest in prosecution or dismissal. At the conclusion of the project, the research team will provide the participating office with key insights about their internal processes and with recommendations about best practices.
The project takes a deep dive into the work of three district offices in discrete geographic locations. Along the way, the study explores how prosecutors weigh evidence, engage with police, negotiate with defense counsel, and assess the public’s interest in accepting or declining prosecution. The team has provided each office with a report that summarizes key insights about its internal charging processes. A forthcoming series of white papers will provide a broader assessment of the Deason Center’s findings about how prosecutors screen and charge cases.
A PROSECUTOR’S STORY
I’m driving back to the office after lunch, when I make a left turn into traffic ahead of an SUV. The next thing you know, there are blue and red lights in my rearview mirror. Shoot. I turned on green, thought I gave enough room. When did the police start using SUVs in this town? Anyhow, I pull over.
That’s when it hits me. I’ve got a gun in the trunk. I’ve got a concealed-carry permit, and it shows I’m an [assistant district attorney], but the officer won’t see that at first. I’m brown, he’s stopped me, and now he’ll know I have a weapon.
This happened right after Minnesota [when Philando Castile was shot during a traffic stop], and that’s all I can think about. I’m sweating, my hands are shaking. I’ve never been that scared in my life. I’m a prosecutor, and I’m worried about getting shot during a traffic stop.
[After the officer took my license, registration and gun permit, he realized he had pulled over a prosecutor].
So, he looks at me and says, “You haven’t done anything wrong. I just thought you might have had a drink at lunch, and I wanted to make sure you got back to the office safely.” Uh-huh, right. He’s a rookie officer who just realized that the brown guy he stopped is a prosecutor, and he has to find a way out of this.”
In retrospect, it’s almost a little funny. Like, who was more scared — me for my life or him for his job?