Why Prosecutors Overcharge?

In his most recent Huffington Post blog post titled Overcharging George Zimmerman With Murder, Prof. Bennett L. Gershman of Pace Law School analyzes the implications of prosecutors charging defendants with crimes “that cannot reasonably be supported by the evidence.” He points out the extraordinary discretionary power prosecutor possesses and the potential for abuse this power can lead to. Prof. Gershman takes the Florida George Zimmerman case in which the defendant was charged with second degree murder and demonstrates the considerations and the decision process the prosecutor engages in when charging a defendant.

What do you think – did the prosecutor in the Zimmerman case overcharge to create leverage for plea bargain, was it a trial tactic, or was she pressured by public?

One comment

  1. Paul Maculay

    Prosecutors in our community indict cases before the time for a preliminary hearing knowing that they can indict on any charge to a grand jury which requires little evidence. The problem with this is that the prosecutor often doesn’t know the weaknesses in their case, going on the police package only and often times do not hear from the defense lawyer who is just learning about the case himself. No prosecutor has ever been criticized for over charging a case. The consequences are that after mitigating evidence comes to light or potential weaknesses are exposed in the prosecutions case the DA has little room to maneuver if the charge is a Violent Felony given plea bargain restrictions. As a consequence the defendant is either forced to take a one step reduction in the charge, often requiring prison or take his chances at trial. In the Zimmerman case it’s obvious that public sentiment came into play and the case was overcharged. Based upon what I’ve read, the jury would have to speculate in order to convict.

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