A prosecutor is a critical official in the criminal justice system of the United States because they respond efficiently to various crimes through processing of criminal cases. They base their decision on police reports on who to be charged and whether a case will go on trial or be pled out. A prosecutor is a professional who represents the government of the United States of America in criminal trials for serious offenses committed by citizens. They have an ambition for arguing even the high profile cases before the jury and removing dangerous criminals such as murders, drug barons, serial killers, and rapists from the streets. Despite these fundamental duties assigned to them, prosecutors in the United States of America have received little attention. For appointment as a prosecutor, one should have some particular qualifications, understand the roles assigned, and interact with different players in a court of law.
To start with, a prosecutor is defined as the representative of the state in a criminal trial. And is tasked with the presentation of a case against an individual suspected of committing an offense or breaking the law. Prosecutors initiate and directs further criminal investigation while guiding and recommending offenders to be sentenced. They are the only attorney allowed to take part in grand jury proceedings. In the United States, the titles of prosecutors differ from one state to another and the level of government. For instance, a prosecutor in New York, Georgia, Texas, and Oregon are referred to as District Attorney while in Michigan, Washington and Missouri they are called Prosecuting Attorney. Other states like Delaware and Rhode Island refer their prosecutor as the State Attorney. The law requires the prosecutor to follow certain laws such as disclosing evidence to the defense because of the 1963 Supreme Court ruling of Brady v. Maryland. If the prosecutor fails to follow these laws, it results in prosecutorial misconduct.
American prosecutors are unique because they perform some different functions in the administration of justice. Worrall and Nugent-Borakove (2014) observe that the most obvious roles of the prosecutor are the representation of the state in court and upholding the state and federal constitutions. Similarly, Kelly (2015) notes that the traditional function of a prosecutor is the representation of the interest of the state and the community in the adjudication and the sentencing of offenders as well as honoring the rights of the accused. The prosecutor is the voice of the courtrooms in America, enforces the law and represents the government duly elected by the American people. The prosecutor is also charged with the responsibility of looking out for the interest of the public in legal proceedings and hence has a hand in almost all decisions made in the legal process of every case brought to court.
Moreover, prosecutors have the authority to charge any person for any committed offense. They have the greatest part of the discretionary power in the judicial system, and hence it is up to the prosecutor to decide to charge a person or not. This power has a significant impact on the liberty and lives of the affected. This may involve imprisoning a member of society deemed dangerous to prevent any further harm to society that such a person may inflict. On the contrary, this may deprive a sole breadwinner to dependents or, put an emotional and financial strain on the family members.
The prosecutor also has a legal responsibility of sharing evidence with the defense attorneys that inclines to the innocence of a defendant or proves the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. This is executed by the provision of tangible evidence, documents, opinions, and testimony from qualified experts in areas such as forensic accountants and fingerprints analysts. Also, statements made by the defendant to law enforcement are offered by the prosecutor, only if they were voluntarily made after the accused had a prior advice of the right to consult an attorney and to remain silent. On the other hand, the prosecutor may present additional evidence to rebut any evidence offered by the defendant. This duty gives the role of a prosecutor as a justice seeker.
Furthermore, a prosecutor contributes to an investigation by the presentation of the accused and the friends for investigation, provision of advisory assistance to the police, and avail the required evidence for a conviction. The prosecutor also allows the investigators with access to tools such as warrants for electronic surveillance, searches or documentary evidence to be conducted on the accused. Moreover, prosecutors have the authority to subpoena and question a witness as well as advising the judges on sentences (Worrall & Nugent-Borakove, 2014). In line with this, the prosecutor can order an arrest, present a case to the grand jury in a secret session and on a one sided presentation of facts. This can easily cause an individual to be indicted and held for trial.
The prosecutor possesses the power to dismiss a case before it reaches the trail on account of insufficient evidence, or inadequate suspicion. The decision of who will be charged, what charge will be filed, who to be offered a plea bargain and the type of the deal all depend on the prosecutor. The prosecutor may also recommend the kind of sentence the offender will receive because the prosecutor has more control over life, reputation, and liberty than any other person in the United States. A charge dismissal is also possible if the prosecutor believes that the suspect is guilty of the crime but does not consider a conviction possible. Another scenario where the case can be dismissed is when the prosecutor believes that an investigation by the police has not produced enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt or that the victim or the main witness may refuse to cooperate as the case moves forward.
Prosecutors in the United States are required to undergo education and must meet the legal qualification requirements for appointment. For instance, all prosecutors should be members of the bar in their respective states. For one to qualify as a prosecutor, it depends on the academic records, litigation experience, classes, and internships.
The first qualification is that an aspiring prosecutor should earn a bachelors degree from an accredited university or college. This degree may be a major in a related field such as criminal justice which leads to a career in criminal justice. On the contrary, students are free to major in any subject or degree they like but are required to complete coursework in English, mathematics, government, and public speaking to get admitted to law school. Students are encouraged to diversify because law school prefers students with varied talents and interests.
A future prosecutor must attend law school which is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Depending on the bachelors degree, this takes three to four years where students delve into the legal system. The courses that one can take include civil procedure, constitutional law, and federal litigation. There are several courses, but as a prospective prosecutor, it is advisable to focus on criminal law and public policy. A big part of the law school also involves the interactive activities that students should indulge in such as competitions in moot court, practical trials, and legal clinics. Students also gain invaluable experience by getting involved in internships and law related jobs. After graduation from law school, the Juris Doctorate degree is awarded to students which entitle them a bar exam in the state that they intend to practice law. When a student passes this, lawyers are granted a state-specific license.
Another important qualification for an aspiring prosecutor is a strong academic background. Although most prosecutors are hired after attending law school for several years, a strong academic background is still critical. Recruiters look for outstanding academic credentials. With the grades of the applicant being taken into account, graduating from top schools such as Harvard law school indicates strong academic background. An excellent academic record will help the prosecutors in quickly understanding the tenets of the arguments even in the most difficult cases.
Furthermore, experience in the field is also a crucial qualification. Experience is necessary because prosecutors must be able to advocate before a judge or jury. Students interested in becoming prosecutors should develop an experience that proves the capability to work with others, exhibit sound judgment and potential trial ability. Students should, therefore, focus on events that show the potential to explain complicated legal issues and speak in public while thinking on their feet. An aspiring prosecutor with clinical experience during the academic year offers a great opportunity to gain valuable experience and demonstrates an interest in trial work. There are several recommended classes and clinical opportunities for students interested in becoming prosecutors such as Trial Advocacy Workshop (TAW), Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), Advanced Criminal Procedure, Federal Criminal Law, and Introduction to Advocacy. These clinics are appropriate because they offer an in-court experience that would be valuable in strengthening one as a prosecutor.
Experience in summer internships offered in many District Attorneys offices is also important for an aspiring prosecutor. The experience gained here includes preparation of cases for second seat trials, writing appellate briefs and trial memoranda. Also, participation in student practice groups and activities help in developing advocacy skills. It is also important to clerk for a court in the same jurisdiction where you hope to work. The District Attorneys offices is a good start for applicants with experience in criminal cases as having the advantage to learn some of the nuances of litigating in that jurisdiction.
When handling a case, several interactions take place in and outside the courtroom. Each player in the courtroom has their specialized roles to carry out, but some shared goals serve as a motivation in the maintenance of cooperation in the courtroom that has an impact on the outcome of a case. For instance, a typical negotiation exists between the defense attorney and the prosecutor on a plea bargain in exchange for a reduced punishment for the accused. Gertz (1980) agrees that there is a possibility of the judge dropping charges or imposing a lighter sentence when there is an interaction between the prosecutor, the judge, and the defense attorney. When the accused pleads guilty in the crime charged, the prosecutor can agree to recommend a lighter sentence to the judge, but the judge may or may not necessarily follow the recommendation from the prosecutor. Tarr (2013) notes that the judge may conclude that the agreement reached sufficiently protects the interest of both the defendant and the community. The prosecutor can endorse the release of an offender on his recognizance to the judge and recommends electronic monitoring at home in agreement with the reference of the defense attorney.
Furthermore, the prosecutor and the defense attorney relate formally in the courtroom. Kupchik (2006) observes that courtroom interaction in a criminal court before sentencing is focused entirely on the debate between the defense attorney and the prosecutor whose main focus is on the evidence against the defendant. The hearing follows a pattern where defense attorney submits the written legal motions concerning issues such as whether the defendant was properly arrested or if the police legally collected the evidence. The prosecutor, on the other hand, argues against the defen...
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