Chapter 2: Office-Level Leadership: The Prosecutor’s Role to Seek Justice35

“[The prosecution’s] interest, therefore in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, [the prosecutor] is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer … But, while [the prosecutor] may strike hard blows, [the prosecutor] is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much [the prosecutor’s] duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.”36

These oft-quoted words from the United States Supreme Court, most frequently cited in connection with the prosecutor’s duty in the courtroom, are equally descriptive of the prosecutor’s role in the community. “Local police and prosecutors are the gatekeepers to the criminal justice system”37 and are responsible for implementing a comprehensive response to sexual violence in accordance with applicable law and an informed understanding of sexual violence dynamics.

Even with imperfect and varied laws across the country, there are few insurmountable legal obstacles to holding offenders accountable, in most cases, for the full range of their criminal behavior. Gaps in knowledge, however, often pose barriers to realizing the law’s potential, because victim characteristics and fact patterns perceived as “problematic” too often cause criminal justice professionals to hastily dispose of such cases. Institutional structures and policies must be implemented to dissolve these barriers and promote an operational understanding of laws and their enforcement38 that encompasses the growing body of relevant social science, medical, scientific, and technological research to close the gap between law-on-the-books and law-in-action.


35 See Nat’l District Attorneys Assoc’n, National Prosecution Standards, (3rd ed. 2009), available at

36 Berger v. United States, 295 US 78 (1935).

37 Owens, et al., supra note 23 at 9.

38 See id. at 11; Ryken Grattet & Valerie Jenness, The Law-in-Between: The Effects of Organizational Perviousness on the Policy of Hate Crimes, 52 (3) Soc. Problems, 37-59 (2005).