Focus on Ethics Video: Discretion in the Courtroom

This video details how the prosecutor’s office has a great deal of discretion in determining which cases go to trial. Many factors external and internal to the case influence whether the prosecutor will decide to press the case forward. Resources available to screen out cases and develop evidence vary from one jurisdiction to another but are important contributors to the prosecutor’s decision to try a case. Sometimes, as demonstrated in the Focus on Ethics scenario, the prosecutor’s decision is hampered by the personal relationships between defendants.

Video source: National Institute of Justice

1. What is your obligation as a prosecutor, if any, to protect the girlfriend from her boyfriend?

2. What resources could the prosecutor’s office use to help convince the girlfriend to give evidence on her boyfriend?

3. Do you as a prosecutor have an ethical obligation to ensure that the boyfriend is prosecuted as a means of protecting society from his extensive drug dealing?

4. Should your political future have any role in your decision whether to prosecute the girlfriend to the full extent of the law?