Prosecutors’ Charging Decisions in Sexual Assault Cases

1432 Words6 Pages
Prosecutors’ Charging Decisions in Sexual Assault Cases

June 8, 2012

“ Case screening is the gateway to the criminal justice system. Prosecutors, acting as gatekeepers, decide which instances of alleged victimization will be passed on for adjudication by the courts” (Frohmann, 1991, p. 213). As Supreme Court Justice Jackson acknowledged in 1940, “the prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America” (Davis, 1969, p.190). Frohmann examined the powerful discretion prosecutors have in their justification for sexual assault case rejections in her research article, Discrediting Victim’s allegations of Sexual Assault: Prosecutorial Accounts of Case Rejections. Her research was replicated
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Spohn, Beichner, and Davis-Frenzel do not conduct a field study as Frohmann does, instead they examined all sexual assault cases cleared by arrest in Miami Florida in 1997. They did however replicate Frohmann’s design of interviewing a sample of the prosecutors who handled the cases. By using this different method of research, Spohn, Beichner, and Davis-Frenzel’s are able to show the frequency in which prosecutors used discrepant accounts and ulterior motives to reject cases. This extends upon Frohmann’s research. Their findings that, “charging decisions primarily reflect the prosecutor’s assessment of the likelihood of conviction” (Spohn, et al. 2001, p. 206) is consistent with Frohmann 's Findings. They also agreed with Frohmann’s categories of typifications, however they found that a substantial amount of cases were rejected for reasons other than discrediting the victim such as, the victim’s failure to appear for a pretrial interview, refusal to cooperate in the prosecution of the case, or admission that the charges were fabricated (Spohn, et al. 2001). Spohn, Beichner, and Davis-Frenzel discuss Steffensmeier’s (1998) focal concerns perspective. They conclude that the focal concerns which guide prosecutors’ charging decisions are the seriousness of the crime, the amount of harm to the victim, and the suspect’s culpability. They are more likely to
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