The Ethics of a Prosecutor

Ethics of a Prosecutor

"While the prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society, when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst. ... A sensitiveness to fair play and sportsmanship is perhaps the best protection against the abuse of power, and the citizen's safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility."  

Robert H. Jackson, United States Attorney General, April 1, 1940.

Download and read the entire speech by Attorney General Jackson about the appropriate role of the Prosecutor here: US-Attorney-General-Robert-H-Jackson-1940-Speech-About-the-Role-of-the-Prosecutor.pdf

A message from District Attorney Dan Dow:

The power and authority that rests with the Office of the District Attorney is immense and therefore must at all times be exercised with the utmost degree of honesty, integrity, and fairness. The values and character traits that we possess in carrying out our important civic duty are very important. 

Together, our team of professionals serve the good people of our County by providing excellence in all that we do in support of our mission to bring justice and safety to our community by aggressively and fairly prosecuting crime and protecting the rights of crime victims.  It is absolutely paramount that at all times and in all things, we do what is right ethically, morally, and legally.

Our office motto is Veritas et Justitia which is Latin for “Truth and Justice.”  This is our motto because the duty of a prosecutor is to always seek truth and seek justice.  If the truth is that a suspect is not guilty, then we have an obligation to come to that conclusion.  If, on the other hand, the truth is that a suspect is guilty, then we have an obligation to aggressively pursue conviction. However, in doing so, we must always exercise our authority to prosecute in a fair manner.  That means that we steadfastly abide by the applicable professional ethics rules, case law, and statute.

One of the most important rules that apply to prosecutors is that we always provide every bit of evidence that is exculpatory. Exculpatory evidence is evidence, such as a statement, tending to excuse, justify, or absolve the alleged fault or guilt of a defendant. In reality, the prosecutor is required to disclose to the defense any evidence favorable to the accused-- evidence that goes towards negating a defendant's guilt, that would reduce a defendant's potential sentence, or evidence going to the credibility of a witness.

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