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Essay Prosecutor

Abstract

A prosecutor is a detective, a litigator, a manager, and a policymaker. He is responsible for investigating illegalities' and is permitted to use specially assigned tools-a grand jury or subpoena-to acquire information and evidence. As a litigator, he is counsel for an artificial client-the government or people-but also the representa- tive of identifiable victims. Moreover, though he functions in an adversary system, he must temper his advocacy and zeal. His goal is not merely to "win," but also to see that "justice is done."

The prosecutor must manage an increasing set of responsibilities in a complex and often arbitrary system, and therefore must balance twin goals of efficiency and success. Finally, as a policymaker, she must make choices concerning both what laws to enforce and how to enforce them. Her power to make those choices is almost unfettered.

A thorough analysis of this difficult mixture of roles, responsibilities, and skills would be quite valuable. Such a general text on "The Prosecution Function" would assist in the training of new prosecutors and increase recognition of the prosecutorial perspective by the legal profession and the public.

Hoping for such an examination, one approaches "The Prosecution Function" by David M. Nissman and Ed Hagen with both expectation and concern. Will the two assistant district attorneys turned authors explore the special obligations and attitudes of the prosecutor? Will they allow their biases to taint their analysis? Will they reveal the broad scope and nature of the prosecution function? Will they lead the reader to see the need for better training and for increased reflection about the prosecutor? Nissman and Hagen's text provides responses to these questions that highlight the problems of becoming and being a prosecutor. Most lawyers, including judges and prosecutors, define the prosecutorial role narrowly and analyze it in terms of the day-to-day courtroom combat. The public perceives the prosecutor as its legal representative in the "war against crime" and seldom, if ever, goes beyond that vision to look at her role as part of a larger and extremely troubled justice system. Students and new prosecutors, in turn, absorb these perspectives and seek training as "courtroom torpedoes," fighting to win a war against wrongdoers.

This review essay first presents Nissman and Hagen's view of the prosecutorial world as expressed in their text. Their view is limited in that it focuses on the local district attorney in the courtroom. The second section of this essay considers the extent to which Nissman and Hagen succeed in detailing and exploring that circumscribed perspective. This reviewer concludes that, while the text gives helpful guidance on selected prosecutorial functions and techniques, it is deficient in that it chooses too few areas of courtroom activity for analysis, and fails to describe the environment in which a prosecutor works. Moreover, the text misses an opportunity to convey to a young prosecutor the need for ethical sensitivity in his day-to-day actions.

This essay then critiques the authors' premise that a "clinical law" teaching text, or a "how to" book for students and new prosecutors should not delve into matters of policy. As this essay demonstrates, the authors' view is misdirected. Clinical and other students and young prosecutors could use a more thorough text in order to put the prosecutor's quasi-judicial role in its proper context.

Finally, this essay suggests the need for a broader prosecutorial sourcebook. The essay offers a proposed format that will increase the value of such a book to students, attorneys, and interested citizens.

Citation Information

Martin H. Belsky, Review Essay On Becoming and Being a Prosecutor, 78 Northwestern University Law Review 1485 (1984).

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The hardest thing about writing is that it requires thought. It requires putting ideas into words, and words into sentences on paper. When you’re composing an essay, you also need to think about what you’re writing from your reader’s perspective. You need to think about how to write your argument so that your reader can understand it. And you’ll need to anticipate his or her questions with your written analysis.

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Five Paragraphs, or Twenty-five?

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How to Write an Essay: Beyond the Formula

Here’s something you won’t hear from many teachers: There really is an essay “formula.” Plug in the right types of sentences in the right places and you’re on your way to a successful essay.

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Understand the book.
• Write an effective outline.
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I won’t spend much time on the phraseology you’ll find in a lot of essay-writing resources—terms like “hook,” “thesis statement,” “topic sentence,” and so on. Yes, I’ll cover all the details essential to a killer essay. But I’ll leave the English jargon to others. I want you to think, not like someone preparing to write an essay for English class, but someone preparing to argue a case in a court of law.

How to Write an Essay: Think Like a Prosecutor

In fact, let’s leave English class behind—just for a moment. Let’s take a brief trip to court, where a high-profile case is being argued in front of a skeptical jury. We’re not going to visit a real courtroom, where procedure, and mountains of evidence, and bad fluorescent lighting take the fun out of the case. Instead, we’ll sit down in the gallery of one of TV’s courtrooms—the kind of place that makes a trial seem dramatic and sexy.

In this high-profile case:

• The prosecutor is the lawyer in charge of proving that the person on trial is guilty.
• The defense attorney is the lawyer who argues that the defendant, the person on trial, is not guilty.
• The jury is the 12-member panel that listens to both sides of the case and decides whether the defendant is guilty.

To convince a jury to return a guilty verdict requires the right arguments. The right evidence. It takes a clear sense of what the case is about and a willingness to take the jury by the hand and lead them through the case—witness by witness—so that they reach the right conclusion. The prosecutor must anticipate the defense attorney’s arguments—where he or she might try to punch holes in the case to create doubt. And above all, the prosecutor must be persuasive.

Any lawyer will tell you that winning at trial is not that simple, but for our purposes, it is. That’s because writing a paper is like heading up the prosecution team in a court of law. To win your case, you must:

• Assemble your case file.
• Bring charges.
• Gather relevant evidence and witnesses to support your case.
• Organize that evidence and those witnesses in a logical progression that leads the jury to the proper conclusion.
• Anticipate the defense’s arguments and objections and prepare to counter them.
• Write a killer opening argument.
• Make your case in a focused and persuasive fashion.
• Deliver a clincher of a closing argument.

No, there’s no shortcut to a great essay. But follow these steps, and you may be surprised by the logic and clarity of the arguments you develop, and the strength of the essay you write.

Ready to get writing? Good. The defendant awaits.

How to Write an Essay
Step 1: Think Like a Prosecutor was last modified: November 2nd, 2015 by Jenny Sawyer

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