Prosecution and Race: The Power and Privilege of Discretion

50 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2009

See all articles by Angela J. Davis

Angela J. Davis

American University - Washington College of Law

Date Written: October 1, 1998

Abstract

This article examines prosecutorial discretion and argues it is a major cause of racial inequality in the criminal justice system. It asserts that prosecutorial discretion may instead be used to construct effective solutions to racial injustice. The article maintains that since prosecutors have more power than any other criminal justice officials, with practically no corresponding accountability to the public they serve, they have the responsibility to use their discretion to help eradicate the discriminatory treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system.

Part I of the Article explains the importance and impact of the prosecution function. Part II discusses the role of race and racism in discretionary prosecutorial decisions. Part III examines the difficulty in bringing successful legal challenges to discriminatory prosecutorial decisions. Part IV suggests the use of prosecutorial discretion as a remedy for race discrimination in the criminal justice system. Finally, Part V proposes the use of racial impact studies in prosecution offices to advance the responsible, nondiscriminatory exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

Keywords: Criminal justice, racial justice, criminal defense, prosecutorial misconduct, race discrimination, prosecutorial power, racial inequality

Suggested Citation

Davis, Angela J., Prosecution and Race: The Power and Privilege of Discretion (October 1, 1998). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 67, No. 13, 1998, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1516010

Angela J. Davis (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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