D.A.: Prosecutors in Their Own Words

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9780684831565: D.A.: Prosecutors in Their Own Words

From the bestselling author of Cops comes a riveting and hard-hitting look at the criminal justice system, as told by those on the inside -- the district attorneys who prosecute crime in America. Often the unsung heroes of the justice system, D.A.'s -- overworked and underpaid -- represent the people when suspects are brought to trial. It is they who determine which crimes will be most actively pursued. For D.A., Mark Baker interviewed dozens of D.A.'s from big cities, small towns, and rural areas across the country, and it is their stories and their voices -- by turns idealistic, tough, cynical, and hopeful -- that make up this compelling collective portrait of the men and women whose responsibility it is to see that justice is served. Prosecutors have enormous powers of discretion. They can decide whether to go to trial or to offer a plea agreement (most of them hate the term "plea bargain"). They face tremendous pressure, especially on high-profile cases, and occasionally even threats from defendants (one-quarter of all prosecutors nationwide say they carry a firearm for personal security). Yet prosecutors are expected to keep a strong sense of perspective, to look at each case individually, to decide whether a particular defendant deserves special consideration, and ultimately to determine what is best for the community. In D.A., prosecutors discuss what happens when idealism and high expectations run into reality -- low pay, skillful defense attorneys, questionable evidence, and duplicitous witnesses. In candid and unflinching detail, they recall their most memorable cases, wins and losses, and how they keep going in spite of the sometimes chilling crimes they face in court. Like Cops, D.A. is a gritty, pull-no-punches kind of book that takes up inside the court-room and puts us at the prosecutor's table.

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Review:

Prosecutors serve a key role at the conjunction of crime and punishment, wielding an influence on our criminal judicial system second only to that of judges. For the most part, prosecutors exercise absolute discretion over their cases: they are the ones who select the cases worth prosecuting, determine the proper charge against the defendant, and decide whether to plea-bargain or go to trial. The best prosecutors approach their task with humility and courage; the worst have big heads and no backbone. In D.A.: Prosecutors in Their Own Words, district attorneys get a chance to explain who they are and what they do. Sometimes, they admit, it feels as if they are trying to shovel sand against the tide. In the face of reluctant witnesses, vengeful victims, vindictive defendants, death threats, political coercion, media scrutiny, public outrage, and the sometimes crushing pressure to win every case at all costs, these mostly anonymous civil servants are obligated to roll up their sleeves and bear the burden of proof against a never-ending flow of deviancy and brutality--all for low pay and little prestige. Mark Baker--who has previously given "in their own words" treatment to cops and bad guys--has put together a revealing and unromanticized insider's view of how American justice works (and how it doesn't) and the toll it takes on its practitioners. "Witnessing so much of the detail of the serious crimes--the brutal homicide, the rapes--you leave something behind by being involved with them," one prosecutor acknowledges. "You don't leave the office the same person you were." --Tim Hogan

About the Author:

Mark Baker has been writing about people's lives since 1981 and is the author of six previous books, including Bad Guys, Nam, and the bestselling Cops. He lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and New York City.

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Published by Simon & Schuster (1999)
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