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Reimagining Criminal Prosecution: Toward a Color-Conscious Professional Ethic for Prosecutors

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 49 Issue: 3 Dated: Summer 2012 Pages: 1541-1597
Justin Murray
Date Published
57 pages
This article discusses the need for prosecutors to embrace a color-conscious vision when exercising their professional duties.
This article examines the current situation of a color-blind criminal justice system and explores the need for prosecutors to embrace a color-conscious vision when exercising their professional duties. The author examines how the concept of color-blindness faults Blacks for the persistent racial inequalities in American society, especially as it relates in today's criminal justice system. The article begins with a discussion of color-blind versus color-conscious perspectives on race and crime used in the Nation's criminal justice systems. This section explores two characteristics of color blindness: its narrow definition of racism and its strategy for managing and implementing racial perception. The section also discusses how the historical consciousness of racism has influenced today's criminal justice system, and examines the social context for assigning moral blame and responsibility for Black crime. The second section of the article explores a variety of ways that the problems resulting from a color-blind criminal justice system can be corrected by prosecutors' use of color-conscious policies when exercising their professional duties. This section examines the dual role of prosecutors in an adversarial system, the presence of implicit racial bias in prosecutorial discretionary decisionmaking, and how color-consciousness can help to diminish the role of bias present in prosecutorial decisionmaking. The author presents several proposals for ways that prosecutors can implement color-consciousness into their everyday practices. In order to do this, prosecutors must take into account the external constraints that might affect their work, such as the policies and procedures of the prosecutor's office in which they work.