Prosecutors and the Death Penalty

Authored by: Stacy K. Parker

Routledge Handbook on Capital Punishment

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138651579
eBook ISBN: 9781315624723
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315624723-19

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Abstract

Prosecutors are arguably the most important people in the criminal justice system when it comes to the death penalty: no one can face a possible death sentence unless a prosecutor decides to seek it. A mysterious question is how prosecutors make decisions in death-eligible cases, that is, cases in which the death penalty may legally be sought. While some prosecutors may announce why they have chosen to seek or not to seek the death penalty in certain cases, they are under no obligation to do so. Furthermore, the reasons they might give could be pretextual. Although a definite answer to the question of how prosecutors make decisions in death penalty cases cannot be obtained, there is still a lot of information to shine some light on prosecutors’ decision making. This chapter is divided into two sections. The first section addresses prosecutorial discretion, including who makes decisions and factors that affect them. The second section discusses legal issues that can be particularly challenging for prosecutors in death penalty cases.

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