Prosecutors: Bullies w/o badges

While adding the Rodney-Winners to the blogroll yesterday I noticed Doubtslinger’s latest post about his 17-year-old client who pled no-contest to assault with a deadly weapon on Thursday. He writes:

If my client were an adult, I’d be thrilled with the outcome. But the grim reality is that a kid is going to prison where he will learn to be the gang member he is aspiring to be. He’ll be out in about two and a half years a leaner, meaner son of a bitch.

He could have been saved. His participation in this event was at best a bystander, at worst a bystander with bad intentions. I don’t know what led the prosecutor to direct-file on this kid. They could have asked the juvenile court for a fitness hearing, where a social history could have been done, we could have hired child-psychiatrists and social workers to take a long, hard look at this kid and decide whether this is someone society should throw away.

The voters of this great state gave the prosecution the power to skip the psychobabble and treat kids like the grown ups they aren’t. Once a case is direct filed, there is nothing a defense attorney can do until the conclusion of the trial, and hope that the judge will sentence his client as a juvenile instead of as an adult. At least when that issue is dealt with on the front end, a defense attorney knows whether or not he’s playing high stakes poker, and can better advise his client.

First, there are so many great points in there. Our justice system leaves so much discretion to prosecutors that if they fail to exercise it, we end up with a broken system where no justice is done. Here, it appears the prosecutor used his/her discretion to bully this kid into pleading guilty to a very serious charge. The bullying was two-fold—first by directly filing to treat the kid as an adult, and second with the attempted murder charge the prosecutor most likely knew he/she would never win. If you ask me, that’s an abuse of the system, but, then, you didn’t ask me, did you?

Second, what a great post! I wish I could write posts like this on a regular basis. I’ve seen similar injustices countless times in the past year and I always think about writing about them, but I’m honestly afraid to do so while the incidents are still fresh in my mind. The jurisdiction I’m in is so small that there’s always the chance someone would see the post and it would somehow affect my client prior to sentencing. Even after a case is closed I worry about writing about it for the same reason. I’m not sure if being in a larger jurisdiction would change that, or if I’d have to go to a super-secret anonyblog to feel free enough to write that way. Er, perhaps I already have a super-secret anonyblog. Would you know if I did? ;-)

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