Prosecutor Power: Scott Hechinger on the Urgency of Reform

If you’re not following Scott Hechinger on Twitter, you’re missing something important. A public defender and the director of policy at Brooklyn Defender Services, Hechinger is a fantastic explainer and participant-witness at the frontlines of the justice system. In May 2018, he joined our series on prosecutors, outlining how prosecutor power is exerted at key decision-points in his clients’ cases, mostly to their detriment. Chosen by the Vera Institute of Justice for its ‘Best of 2018‘ awards, we’re revisiting that episode with a new introduction in light of the remarkable new series from Ava DuVernay, ‘When They See Us.’ The series dramatizes the story of five black teenagers arrested and imprisoned for the rape of a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989 showing how prosecutor and police power is used to force false confessions from the five teens. Their case is an extreme one, but it’s by no means an isolated example. Indeed, what emerges from the discussion with Hechinger is how much the system, as part of its day-to-day operation, relies upon a combination of coercion and incentives to get what it wants from defendants.

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