Project #82601 - Criminal justice discussion

1. Consider each of the following scenarios.  Offer an opinion as to whether the actions are legal, and support your answer.  Offer an opinion as to whether the actions are ethical, and support your answer.

* Leaking the identity of a seventeen year old gang member who is suspected of committing a drive-by shooting to the media knowing full well he was in danger from rival gang members, and then offering protective custody only if he would plead guilty. 

I do not find this case neither ethical or legal. It is not acceptable to leak information about a "suspected" person of a drive by shooting to the media. This individual has not been convicted and by no means is it safe to leak the information even if the suspect was guilty. Knowing a dangerous gang would be watching the media, this outs the suspect in great danger. The individual should not have to plead guilty to the drive by shooting if there is no substantial evidence or unless the individual was truly guilty. Protection should not only be provided if the suspect were to plead guilty, especially if they are not guilty. 

 

* Authorizing the arrest of a fourteen year old boy who confessed to a crime, even though there was no serious possibility that he was guilty, in order to pressure a guilty relative to confess to murder.

This case is not ethical nor legal in any way. In my opinion, no individual should be arrested for a crime they did not commit, especially when there is no possibility that the individual was guilty. The Foundation of Ethics book states, "The rational of such a practice is to make it onerously difficult to convict anyone of a serious crime because convicting an innocent person is thought to be much worse then letting a guilty person go free. We therefor try, as far as possible, to ensure that no innocent person is ever punished" (Odhiambo, 2009). 

 

* Authorizing the arrest of one brother for possession of a very small amount of marijuana, even though you know the charge would ultimately be thrown out  by the judge (but the young man would probably lose a scholarship to college) in order to have leverage so that he would testify against his brother, who is a known drug smuggler.  The drug smuggler's activities have resulted in the deaths of numerous teenagers.

This specific case is considered legal because the individual was carrying marijuana. Even though the amount possessed was small, unless in a legalized state, it is illegal to have marijuana in your possession. Yes this case would normally be thrown out because it is such a small amount, but for the exact reason that this young mans brother is a drug dealer, is enough reason for the judge to hold onto the case. By the brother being a drug dealer, which has led in multiple teenage deaths, the goal would be to use the young man to leer his brother in. The ultimate goal of holding onto this case would be by thinking of the bigger picture. The bigger picture is capturing the bigger fish, known as the brother. If the brother was caught, this would eliminate many teenage deaths and by reducing the drugs that are being sold. It is unfortunate that the young man who had marijuana in his possession will now lose his scholarship, but that is a sacrifice the judge would make when thinking of the ultimate take down goal. 

 

References:

Odhiambo, F. Ochieng. (2009). Foundations of Ethics. Retrieved September 14, 2015, from https://books.google.it/books?id=OUKSygQ57bgC&pg=PA86&lpg=PA86&dq=is+it+ethical+to+convict+an+innocent+person&source=bl&ots=DHoOrP5tV_&sig=eW_04KL9_qzfcvwW8TnFwNW9sAA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDsQ6AEwBGoVChMI5JKapMH2xwIVAj0UCh2XiwUF#v=onepage&q=is%20it%20ethical%20to%20convict%20an%20innocent%20person&f=false

2. 1.  Leaking the identity of a seventeen year old gang member who is suspected of committing a drive-by shooting to the media knowing full well he was in danger from rival gang members, and then offering protective custody only if he would plead guilty. 

As it pertains to prosecutors and the media, the National District Attorney Association directs prosecutors to,".. protect both the rights of the individual accused of a crime and the needs of citizens to be informed about public dangers," (p. 39, n.d.).  In order to balance the public's right to know of a potential dangerous criminal and the rights and safety of the accused, the prosecutor must consider all the available information. Because the scenario states that the information was "leaked" I believe that there was a fine legal line that was crossed.

 The prosecutor should not have released the information on the 17 year old as his life could be in danger. Whether we personally believe that the teenager should get whatever's coming to him for committing a drive by or not, the person who leaked his name has put a target on his  back. If there was enough evidence to prove a case against this 17 year old he would have been arrested. Because there isn't, there is still a chance that he is innocent. The second issue is that once his life is in danger and he comes in to the police for help, he may be innocent but forced to plead guilty to something he did not do in order to receive police protection. This can't be legal. It certainly isn't ethical for the same reasons. 

2. Authorizing the arrest of a fourteen year old boy who confessed to a crime, even though there was no serious possibility that he was guilty, in order to pressure a guilty relative to confess to murder.

I would have to say this is not legal because the scenario says that there is no possibility that he is guilty. Therefore, there would be no legal cause for him to be brought up on charges. The NDAA cautions the following conditions be considered, amongst others, for charging a suspect:

The attitude and mental status of the accused p50

The defendant’s relative level of culpability in the criminal activity p52

I don't see the boy in the scenario as fitting this criteria as he is just covering for someone. It would be one thing to say that the prosecutor isn't aware of his guilt or not but he knows that the boy is innocent. If he continues with filing charges,  he would be wasting time and resources. It is also unethical because the boy may be suffering from an illogical and emotional need to protect the loved one who is the real murderer and therefore his attitude and mental status should be taken into consideration.

3. Authorizing the arrest of one brother for possession of a very small amount of marijuana, even though you know the charge would ultimately be thrown out  by the judge (but the young man would probably lose a scholarship to college) in order to have leverage so that he would testify against his brother, who is a known drug smuggler.  The drug smugglers activities have resulted in the deaths of numerous teenagers.

I would say after my readings that legally, the DA should not be wasting time and resources on such a petty offense even if it's for the sake of a making a bigger arrest. The NDAA states that before charging a prosecutor must consider the following:

Will there be, "undue hardship that would be caused to the accused by the prosecution ." (p50)

"Whether the size of the loss or the extent of the harm caused by the alleged crime is too small to warrant a criminal sanction." ( p50)

Ethically, I think that this is a deceitful practice and it should not be utilized. If the drug smuggler has caused the deaths of innocents by way of his activities then it would seem that investigative work and forensics would be the way to get this criminal behind bars.

 

NDAA. (n.d.). National Prosecution Standards. Retrieved September 14, 2015, from http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/NDAA NPS 3rd Ed. w Revised Commentary.pdf

 3.Imagine you are a district attorney prosecuting a burglary case.  The defendant is willing to plead guilty in return for a sentence of probation, and you believe that this is a fair punishment.  Although a thorough investigation was conducted, you believe the evidence that is available may not support a conviction.  However, the victims are upset and want to see the offender receive prison time.  You realize that these victims are taxpayers, so they pay your salary.  What should you do?  Support your decision by constructing a logical argument for the course of action you choose.

 

In this case, I will encourage the defendant to take the plea bargain as he/she is already willing to admit the burglary in exchange for a lighter sentencing. 
If the defendant does not take this plea bargain, he/she may walk the street free as there is a chance he/she does not get convicted with the available evidence. If that’s the case, victims will probably be more disappointed.  I understand that the victims want the justice and want the defendant to serve a prison time. Unfortunately, not everything will go in favor for the victims. With the amount of crime that happens every day, processing every case is virtually impossible. Like Stephanie mentioned earlier, that’s when the law enforcement officer's discretion kicks in. Everyone involved in the legal process benefits from the plea bargain.  Stephanie already explained what types of benefit each profession receives, so I will skip this part. I would like to add one thing. The plea bargain process is cost-efficiency than sending all cases to trials (Dover, 2011, p. 1) So it is financially beneficial too.
Approximately 90-95 percent of cases result in plea bargaining. If the defendants do not take the offered plea and go to trial, they have the higher chance of receiving harsher sentences (Devers, 2011, p. 3). So to a defendant, it is generally a better option to take the plea than not to take it and go to a trial. 
As for the victims, the plea bargain does not seem fair, and I agree. But with the current way of the justice system, it is impossible to have all cases to go to trial. We do not have enough people to deal with that many cases. Jail space is limited as well. The bright side is that at least, the guilty individuals face the consequences of their actions…even if it is not as harsh as the victims would like.

Referece
Devers, L. (2011, January 24). Plea and Charge Bargaining. Retrieved from https://www.bja.gov/Publications/PleaBargainingResearchSummary.pdf

4. I don't believe there is a real ethical dilemma here. From all that I've learned to this point, justice is not a given or automatic byproduct of the criminal justice system. While it may  be the victim's wish that the burglar serve prison time, it may not be in the best interest of the DA to pursue that course of action. According to the National Prosecution Standards put forth by the National District Attorney's Association (NDAA), there are many factors to consider before going through with criminal charges. (n.d.) Section 4-1.3 of the Standards states," Prosecutors should screen potential charges to eliminate from the criminal justice system those cases where prosecution is not justified or not in the public interest," (NDAA, p. 50, n.d).  One of these considerations is whether there is sufficient "admissible proof" to convict. If as the DA, I don't believe we can get a conviction, then I don't see the need to waste the court's time by running this case through anyways. The DA should not make decisions based on emotional responses. Following through with a pointless case and seeing the defendant go free with no repercussions because I lacked a solid case will not make the victims feel any better for the burglary. Additionally, this criminal broke the law but his choice of offense does not include bodily harm to any persons. Therefore, due to prison overcrowding, if by some miracle I secured a conviction, there may not have been room for him anyways which would have seen him sent home under house arrest or probation anyways. I would take the defendant's guilty plea and do my best to explain the lack of evidence to the victims. 

 

NDAA. (n.d.). National Prosecution Standards. Retrieved September 14, 2015, from http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/NDAA NPS 3rd Ed. w Revised Commentary.pdf 

 
 

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Due By (Pacific Time) 09/19/2015 12:00 am
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