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Title: Courting justice in and out of court : a socio-legal examination of prosecutorial commitment and conflict in the United States
Author: Owen, Leanne R.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2678 5272
Awarding Body: University of Wales, Bangor
Current Institution: Bangor University
Date of Award: 2004
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This thesis is concerned with the prosecutorial decision-making process in the United States in cases involving juvenile offenders. As a result ofprosecutorial sentiments of alterity and commitment owing to the largely elective status of their office and expectations which members of their respective communities have of them, prosecutors perceive their role as being that of administrators of moral and legal justice. They are expected, and indeed, they expect of themselves, to know instinctively the 'right thing' to 'do' in cases involving juvenile offenders. Yet American criminal law makes only objective distinctions amongst individuals on the basis of the presence or absence of certain capacities which are presumed to render some individuals legally liable to punishment for their actions and others legally exempt, and this creates the risk for prosecutors that some juveniles will not receive their just deserts. Consequently, American prosecutors make subjective distinctions as they attempt to make moral sense of the juvenile offenders about whom they are expected to make legal decisions. In attempting to make moral sense of juvenile offenders, and simultaneously reconcile the intra-role conflict they may experience as they attempt to preserve the best interests of the juvenile in accordance with the philosophical underpinnings of the juvenile court system whilst protecting the best interests of the community, prosecutors exercise their discretion and construct juvenile offenders symbolically as certain 'kinds' of people. According to the analysis of research data gathered over a nine-month period and involving the participation of twenty-three respondents in personal interviews and one hundred respondents by self-administered questionnaire, prosecutors may understand juveniles as being of good or bad moral character, as being child-like or adult-like, and as being salvageable or disposable. Accordingly, they construct what they believe to be the moral just deserts ofthese juvenile offenders, namely informal education, formal treatment, or formal punishment. In making moral sense of these juvenile offenders and of their moral just deserts, and in making subsequent legal decisions about them, prosecutors must act in ways which are consistent with both their shared instrumental prosecutorial values and with societal expectations of them. Both these professional and political sources of accountability have an indirect influence on the way in which prosecutors carry out their job in respect to their perception of role, and, in short, on what it means to truly 'be' a prosecutor. Part One ofthis thesis establishes a discursive framework and draws upon existing literature in the fields of prosecution, criminal law, and juvenile justice in outlining the role conflicts which prosecutors may inevitably experience as they struggle with the realisation that there is never solely one 'right thing' to 'do' in cases involving juvenile offenders. Part Two develops these ideas further by depicting the prosecutorial process in prosecutors' own words and further entrenches the ideas introduced in Part One in an appropriate socio-Iegal context.
Supervisor: Davis, Howard Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available