What Is the Color of Injustice? an Examination of the New York Prosecutor’s Role in Providing Equitable Treatment of Offenders Through Plea Agreements
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CitationCash-Wilson, Jada. 2019. What Is the Color of Injustice? an Examination of the New York Prosecutor’s Role in Providing Equitable Treatment of Offenders Through Plea Agreements. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractBlacks and Latinos are overrepresented in the U.S. criminal justice system. While racial disparity in case outcomes is often attributed to law enforcement practices or judicial decision making, the role of prosecutors is often overlooked. In fact, prosecutors have wide discretionary power in case processing decisions—from initial screening, charging, bail, and pretrial recommendations, plea bargaining, and sentencing recommendations. (Devers 2011) It is projected that 94 to 97 percent of cases end in a negotiated plea bargain (Balko 2018). These negotiations vary from individual, office, and jurisdiction; so that cases involving similar charges and even similar defendants may have decidedly different results depending on the judgment of the assigned prosecutor . To what extent does the Manhattan District Attorney’s offices evaluative criteria that determines plea agreements provide equitable opportunities for defendants?
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics , in 2003 there were 75, 573 cases disposed of in federal district court by trial or plea. Of these, about 95 percent were disposed of by a guilty plea . It is also estimated that about 90 to 95 percent of both federal and state court cases are resolved through the plea-bargaining process initiated by Prosecutors (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005; Flanagan and Maguire, 1990). The plea agreement process has been criticized for allowing prosecutors too much discretion compared to judges, who are held to concise sentencing guidelines (Baliko 2018). Prosecutorial bias can be extremely detrimental to the plea agreement process as some prosecutors have been found to use threats that coerce defendants into accepting pleas to secure a conviction when the evidence in a case is insubstantial. (Devers 2011)
Manhattan, New York City has jurisdiction over about two million people. Cyrus Vance, Jr., heads the prosecutor’s office as the District Attorney of New York. His office is one of the largest and busiest prosecutor’s offices in the country with more than 500 assistant district attorneys and 700 support staff members, handling more than 100,000 cases annually.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42004162