A Perfect Prosecution: The People of the State of New York Versus Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

People v. Strauss-Kahn is an ideal lens through which to examine the operation of a criminal justice system that privileges the presumption of guilt, or, to use the words of the US Supreme Court in the 2012 decisions Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye, has become "a system of pleas, not a system of trials." It is both an excellent example of a transparent and objective invocation of the criminal sanction, and a sharp counterpoint to the vast majority of cases where law enforcement conclusions are privileged and rarely second-guessed. As analyses of wrongful convictions have sadly but inevitably demonstrated, the screening methods of police and prosecutors are fallible. Moreover, the prevalence of "tunnel vision" once the decision to charge has been made means that few cases experience the kind of post-indictment investigation and reevaluation seen in the prosecution of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Stage by stage, the Strauss-Kahn case illustrates how to counterbalance the presumption of guilt and give expression to the presumption of innocence in the pretrial period through vigilantly-invoked and enforced due process protections. Drawing from this examination, the paper will then explore how to approach this model process in the more standard cases, which typically see a fraction of the judicial, law enforcement, and defense resources afforded Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The Strauss-Kahn prosecution offers several insights, three of which will be sketched at the paper's conclusion: a requirement that prosecutorial decision-making be subject to a reasonable doubt standard; vigilant and early enforcement of the prosecutor's obligation to disclose information that is favorable to the accused; and finally, a requirement that a prosecutor explain in writing any decision to dismiss the felony charges in indicted felony cases, so that the factual, legal and policy bases of these decisions (numbering almost one quarter of New York's superior court felony cases annually) can be analyzed and publicized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-390
Number of pages20
JournalCriminal Law and Philosophy
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Keywords

  • Brady disclosures
  • Dominique Strauss-Kahn
  • Plea-bargaining
  • Presumption of guilt
  • Presumption of innocence

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