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Title: Making the Case for Jurors: An Ethnographic Study of U.S. Prosecutors
Authors: Offit, Anna
Advisors: Greenhouse, Carol
Rosen, Lawrence
Contributors: Anthropology Department
Keywords: Justice
Lay participation
Legal anthropology
Legal ethics
Legal technique
Prosecutorial strategy
Subjects: Law
Law enforcement
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation offers an unprecedented empirical window into federal prosecutors’ everyday work. The ethnographic research that constitutes it includes 133 interviews with Assistant U.S. Attorneys and participation in 68 case preparation meetings and 26 jury selection proceedings between 2013 and 2017. It also includes participant observation during two trials that fell at the beginning and end of the research period. Analysis of these cases draws on pertinent trial transcripts, sidebar interactions, and strategy meetings. My argument is that jurors play a central role in prosecutors’ decision-making, professional identities, and formulations of justice. This is because the possibility of lay scrutiny at trial, however remote, creates an opening for prosecutors to invoke nonlegal knowledge about the fairness of their cases and their responsibilities as public servants. I argue, further, that prosecutors’ references to jurors as a routine part of their technique exceeds the instrumentality of obtaining guilty verdicts. The pervasive invocations of real and imagined laypeople that ethnography brings to light make a case for the jury’s value and continuing impact as prosecutions are made and abandoned in their name. This study contributes to the discipline of anthropology by demonstrating the collaborative, contingent, and creative character of legal technique in the United States. The findings that emerge from it also unsettle conventional understandings of prosecutorial discretion and lay participation. First, it challenges dichotomous conceptions of lay and professional expertise, as prosecutors regularly bring common sense understandings of justice into their discussions. Second, it demonstrates that prosecutors do not constitute a monolithic professional group. Rather, they invoke jurors as a narrative resource with which to critique and adjust their approaches to cases. And third, prosecutors negotiate their ethical and professional commitments as representatives of the federal government with reference to the laypeople who may evaluate their work.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Anthropology

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