Prosecutors Charging Decisions in Sexual Assault Cases Term Paper

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Frohmann,( 1991) discusses case screening as being the gateway to the criminal court system. She conducted research on how prosecutors account for their decision to reject sexual assault cases for prosecution, with a focus on discrediting victims' rape allegation in the prosecutor's justification. One of the first things discussed in the article covers the credibility of the victim and the role that this plays not only in whether or not the police department will investigate and/or make an arrest; it also influences the prosecutors' and the manner in which they handle a sexual assault case. Some of the research utilized in the article explains that the credibility of a victim is completely separate and exists independently from the interpretation of the prosecution and their assessment of the victims' credibility. On the other hand, there is research that supports the premise that credibility of the victim is constructed on the interactions that the prosecution has with the victim. It is further explained that the victims' credibility is what will be used to determine if the victim would be a good witness in their case. A prosecutor would want a victim that can convince the jury that her recant of the events that occurred are accurate leaving very little to no doubt that what the victim has stated could be false or fabricated in any way. A prime candidate that would fit this description is one that is sincere, consistent and able to give a proper account of the events of the date in question that is convincing to the jury.

Spohn, Beichner, & Davis-Frenzel,(2001) in their research start off by making the same reference regarding the gateway to the criminal court system. In this article the researcher begin by expressing the ideals behind the unchecked discretionary power that prosecutors have over what cases will and will not be filed. It is explained that the prosecution is the gate keeper with the ability to determine who will be charged, what charge will be filed, who will be offered a plea bargain, and what type of bargain will in fact be offered. One aspect that is prominent in both writings i.e. The current research and the research conducted by Frohmann (1991) is that a very critical point is when the prosecution decides whether or not to prosecute.

Frohman (1991) explains that her method of research included a systematical analysis of the accounts that prosecutors offer in sexual assault cases to support their complaint filing decisions. The researcher wanted to insure that finding these justifications would offer a clarification an understanding as to how and why these decisions are rational, necessary and appropriate as the prosecutors do the work on a case. Frohman believes it necessary to uncover the logic under the decision making process as well as the structure in which these decisions are carried out. In the article she focuses on prosecutorial accounting for several reasons. First, there are a large number of cases that are never filed; therefore, the process of case rejection is significant. Secondly, prosecutors must give a justification of why a specific case has been rejected to their superiors. Lastly, to gain a clearer understanding of the premise of why if there is any doubt they would rather reject the case and not file it than gain the clarification necessary to make it reasonable.

Spohn et al., (2001) utilized different data in their research; the research was conducted using data on a sexual battery involving victims over the age of 12 that were cleared by arrest in 1997. The researchers disagreed with the findings of Frohmann regarding the idea that there may not always be a clear cut rationale given for the rejection of a case. The current researchers discuss that in fact they found that there was most often than not a clear decisive rational given regarding why a case was rejected or not.

The research conducted by Frohmann (1991) was an ethnographic field study conducted in two branch offices of the district attorney's offices in the west coast. The research was conducted over a nine-month basis full time in Bay City in 1989 and 8 months in Center Heights. The completed data came from a total of 17 months worth of observational data. Field notes were utilized since tape recordings were not prohibited. Open ended…[continue]

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