Prosecutors wield tremendous power, which is kept in check by a set of unique ethical obligations. In explaining why prosecutors sometimes fail to honor these multiple and arguably divergent obligations, scholars tend to fall into two schools of thought.
The first school focuses upon institutional incentives that promote abuses of power. These scholars implicitly treat the prosecutor as a rational actor who decides whether to comply with a rule based on an assessment of the expected costs and benefits of doing so.
The second school focuses upon bounded human rationality, drawing on the teachings of cognitive science to argue that prosecutors transgress not because of sinister motives, but because they labor under the same cognitive limitations that all humans do.
… Research on the psychological effects of accountability demonstrates that when people are judged primarily for their ability to persuade others of their position, they are susceptible to defensive bolstering at the expense of objectivity.
With these thoughts from A Situationist View of Criminal Prosecutors in mind, we turn to The Situation of False Confessions: Continue reading “Why do people confess to crimes they didn’t commit? (a repost from SLABBED archives)”
Prosecutors have used the following subterfuge with alarming success: Threaten a terrified white-collar defendant with a long jail term in a maximum-security prison with violent offenders, unless he or she pleads guilty to honest-services fraud. In return, the defendant will receive a much-reduced sentence in a relatively cushy federal prison camp.
In this way, prosecutors are guaranteed a conviction. They also don’t have to run the risk of a trial by jury. Even judges have become irrelevant, because they essentially rubberstamp the prison sentence the prosecutors recommend. Cagily, prosecutors, in effect, have usurped the entire legal process for themselves.
Although the columnist (h/t Huffington Post) used far fewer words, his take on honest-services fraud is a summary of the Motion to Dismiss the Indictment for Outrageous Government Conduct filed in USA v Scruggs – which, in turn, brought to mind the Lippman quote:
We are all captives of the picture in our head – our belief that the world we have experienced is the world that really exists.
Unflattering pictures of Dick Scruggs and Paul Minor held some very powerful heads captive. All it took was for each to commit Continue reading “We are all captives of the picture in our head… – so, whose head pictured honest-services fraud?”