January 29, 2008

Masters scandal highlights need for oversight of prosecutors

Revelations of official malfeasance such as occurred in the Tim Masters case cause a massive erosion of public confidence in the judicial system. The potential upside is reforms to safeguard other citizens from being similarly railroaded.

For example, "Masters is free, but justice not yet served" is the headline of a hard-hitting editorial in the Coloradoan, calling for just such reforms.

But reforms will not come easy. As a new book explains, prosecutors in the United States wield ever-growing power under new laws granting them unfettered "prosecutorial discretion" in charging and sentencing decisions.

Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor is the book, authored by public defender Angela J. Davis (no, she's not the same Angela Davis you're probably thinking of).

Arbitrary Justice does two things:
  • It exposes the "dangerous shift in power from judges to prosecutors" (in the words of law prof Barry Schenk of Innocence Project fame) happening in the courthouse trenches.
  • It provides a detailed agenda for reforms aimed at safeguarding defendants, victims, and the public at large.
Hat tip: Corrections Sentencing. Photo is of author Angela J. Davis. See more about the book at its dedicated web site. More blog posts on the Tim Masters case are listed here.