The Role of the Prosecutor in the Criminal Justice System
Illinois prosecutors have a duty to uphold justice, but too often their goal instead becomes winning the case and seeking out the harshest punishment possible. This results in problems such as wrongful convictions and miscarriage of justice, as well as increased overcrowding in our jails.
A Fordham University study found that between 2000 and 2012, the American prison population rose by about 100,000, from 1.5 million to 1.6 million, with a staggering 8.4 million being admitted to prison for some period of time.
According to an article in The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/are-prosecutors-the-key-to-justice-reform/483252/ ), there is a growing need to seriously rethink the role of the prosecutor in the administration of justice. The article cites outdated sentencing guidelines and problems with human biases which have led to a need to curtail the power of prosecutors.
If you have been arrested and accused of a crime in Illinois, you should be aware of the problems that exist with prosecutors. They may directly affect your defense case and should be discussed with the attorney who is helping you fight for freedom.
The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., understand the seriousness of your situation and offer aggressive representation for clients facing criminal charges. We know the courts and the criminal justice system, and how to plea bargain, negotiate guidelines and recognize when to take your case to trial. When we take on a criminal case, we gather information quickly and look at all viable defense options. Based on the facts, we make a decision about the best legal strategy. We know how prosecutors operate, and will do everything possible to vigorously fight for you and defend your rights against overzealous prosecutors.
We offer a free initial consultation. If you have been accused of any criminal charges, get help today by calling 630-305-0222.
Problems with the Prosecution System
Prosecutors have certain responsibilities they should adhere to in order to ensure justice and to keep from impeding it. In the case of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), the United States Supreme Court held that “the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.” This is known as the Brady rule, and it means prosecutors have obligations to turn over information that is favorable to the defendant.
Illinois prosecutors do not always comply with the Brady rule, and this creates problems for the accused, such as:
1) Problems in the administration of the death penalty
In May, 2000, thirteen wrongfully convicted individuals were finally released from death row. Former Gov. George H. Ryan of Illinois imposed a moratorium on further executions and created a Commission on Capital Punishment to study the state capital punishment system. The Commission found that prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense, including the suppression of promises made to state witnesses, and that police failed to investigate alternative leads and suppression of exonerating evidence.
2) Problems with charging crimes too harshly
Prosecutors choose how harshly or leniently to go after someone who has been arrested. In the last two decades, prosecutors have been charging a lot more arrestees with felonies, where they could have been charged with misdemeanors. According to University of Michigan data, in 1994 about one of every three arrests became a felony case; by the end of the 2000s, it was two out of every three arrests. Felony convictions lead to increased prison time and problems with overcrowding.
3) Problems with corruption from growing prosecutorial power
Many district attorneys run for election unopposed in counties with strong political-party identification. As a result, party loyalty, tough-on-crime promises, or electoral indifference give prosecutors enormous amounts of power. Prosecutors want to show a high conviction rate and may turn to unfair methods to achieve it.
What Can Help
John Jay College of Criminal Justice recently announced its Institute for Innovation in Prosecution, headed by former prosecutor Meg Reiss. The institute is attempting to “develop programs designed to support innovation in the role of prosecutors in the American justice system.” Suggestions include:
- Creating transparency as to what is going on in the prosecutors’ offices
- Giving prosecutors better tools with which to do their jobs, with “a lot more discretion and creativity”
- Providing punishments for some nonviolent crimes as “alternatives to prosecution” and “diversion programs.”
Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe Stec, Ltd. for a Free Consultation.
When you are accused of a crime in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can find to protect you against overzealous prosecutors. Your case may seem impossible, but with skillful representation you have a chance. Remember, the law places a heavy burden on the government, and you have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique with its own set of circumstances. We know the judges and the court system and will aggressively explore every avenue for your defense. We examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available, and work hand in hand with our clients throughout the criminal process. We explain all elements and processes of the case and develop an effective defense strategy. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties and rights.
Don’t delay — contact us for help today at 630-305-0222 if you have been accused of any criminal charges. We represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, Illinois. There will be no charge for your initial consultation.