ABA releases guide to understanding prosecutorial discretion

Just published by the American Bar Association, “Can They Do That? Understanding Prosecutorial Discretion” examines the power of government prosecutors to choose whether or not to bring criminal charges, and what charges to bring, in cases where the evidence would justify charges.

Author Melba Pearson helps the reader understand how these decisions are made and discusses how much discretion does and should a prosecutor have?

Pearson brings together diverse perspectives to consider those questions in the voices of prosecutors, judges, public defenders, theorists and advocates for reform.

Rather than taking a purely critical approach, “Can They Do That?” brings nuance to the complex issue of prosecutorial discretion. It will be a resource for criminal law practitioners, law students, prosecutors’ offices and anyone interested in the topic — lawyers as well as the general voting public.

Aspects of prosecutorial discretion explored in this volume include:

  • Theory and historical context
  • Checks on prosecutorial power
  • Positive and negative impacts, with examples
  • Insights into prosecutors’ decision-making processes
  • Comparative international perspective

Pearson is a former homicide prosecutor in Miami, Flor­ida. She is past president of the National Black Prosecutors Associa­tion (NBPA) and past president of the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association in South Florida.

She is co-chair of the Pros­ecution Function Committee of the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association.