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The Discretionary Power Of "Public" Prosecutors In Historical Perspective, Carolyn B. Ramsey Jan 2002

The Discretionary Power Of "Public" Prosecutors In Historical Perspective, Carolyn B. Ramsey

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Norms urging prosecutors to seek justice by playing a quasi-judicial role and striving for fairness to defendants are often assumed to have deep historical roots. Yet, in fact, such a conception of the prosecutor's role is relatively new. Based on archival research on the papers of the New York County District Attorney's Office, "The Discretionary Power of 'Public' Prosecutors in Historical Perspective" explores the meaning of the word "public" as it applied to prosecutors in the nineteenth century. This article shows that, in the early days of public prosecution, district attorneys were expected to maximize convictions and leave ...