A'nold wrote:As for my thoughts about the moral opposition issue:
Most PD's and ADA's are actually pretty friendly with each other. When both sides are doing their jobs correctly, both sides are moral. However, while a PD can act immoral by doing things like not turning over incriminating evidence, etc., it is very difficult for a PD to be truly "evil." This is b/c the most harm he/she can usually do is to "get a guilty person off." A prosecutor, on the other hand, can truly do evil if he/she cuts corners, ignores ethical rules, looks out only for himself and will do whatever it takes to "win." A prosecutor has a larger moral responsibility to be honest with the other side and to be honest with himself about his true motives, actions, etc. It is a very important position where you can absolutely ruin people's lives.
This is not at all what I meant by morally opposed. I mean that from their own internal points of view
they're on opposite sides of a moral divide.
I got a tour of the entire criminal justice system in one of the New York boroughs, given to me by a PD. He happened to mention that one of the writers of the show Raising the Bar
was a former PD there, and he thinks that has something to do with how realistic a portrayal it is (relative to other legal dramas at least). His perspective was that it pretty well represents the job and the people who do it, except for the part at the end where the PDs and ADAs get together and talk things out over drinks at the end of the day, which "never happens".
There's a moment from the TV show that I think illustrates my point better than any real-life example I've seen. After a long trial process, the jury deadlocks and there's a mistrial, which is a sort of victory for the PD. His client wasn't convicted, he convinced at least one juror his client was not guilty, and he's convinced this means his client should be let off the hook. He goes to talk to the DA, who offers his client something light (a year, or probation, or something like that) to avoid another trial. The PD says something like, "for once can't you do the right thing?" The DA gets really angry, tells him he's always been doing the right thing, and tells him to prepare for a retrial.
That's what I mean. They both have their own, opposite views on what "the right thing" is. The PDs will believe and assume the best about their clients, fight for their innocence, fight for leniency and help instead of long sentences when they are guilty, and often view the system as excessively cold and retributive. Prosecutors believe their police detectives and the victims, fight for the highest conviction rates, and seek the longest possible sentences because doing so keeps dangerous people off the streets longer and sends a tough deterrence message.
And both sides look for people who think like them. We live in an adversarial system, you need
people who very strongly believe your side is the right side to give the best representation. In many places, PD offices get so many applicants that they can screen them easily by discarding any with prosecutorial experience, and still have enough candidates left over.
I know there are places where the two sides at least get along, and it varies a lot based on where you are. In some places, PD offices were created out of thin air, and the only experienced criminal attorneys available in the state were prosecutors, so the offices were built by former prosecutors and that led to the two sides getting along better. But then look at a place like like New York where PD services were provided by an entrenched legal aid organization, run by people who believe they're fighting societal inequality and injustice with every single case they handle.
It's easier to switch from PD to prosecutor than vice versa. Prosecutors often believe it's easy to want to join their side, especially since there's usually more money and respect involved. PDs, on the other hand, know their side involves a lot of disrespect, low pay, and losing often, and they really want people who believe in the mission strongly enough that they'll stick through that.