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Legal professionals in the criminal justice system, such as attorneys and judges, play a critical role in the criminal justice process and as such must operate within an established ethical framework. Examine the following scenarios:

  • You are a defense attorney who once worked for the prosecutor’s office. After law school your career plan was to work for the prosecutor’s office for ten years and then open your own private practice specializing in criminal defense. Would this pose an ethical dilemma and affect your decision-making ability while working for the prosecution? Would this pose an ethical dilemma and affect your decision-making ability while working as a defense attorney? Could working in the prosecutor’s office help you later as a defense counsel? Explain your answers.
  • The prosecutor discovers during depositions that the eyewitness’ line of sight was not actually sufficient for the witness to see the crime clearly. What are the prosecutor’s ethical dilemmas/responsibilities? What is more important: justice or a conviction? What if the defendant is a very bad person?

After the jury was selected, you were able to persuade your client that the plea bargain offered by the prosecutor would be in his best interest and in the interest of the criminal justice system. A trial would take unnecessary resources and the incarceration of your client would not benefit him or the system. Based on this information answer the following questions:

  • Is it ethical for prosecutors and attorneys to strike these types of deals?
  • The judge that you were scheduled to try your case before was recently re-elected. Can this judge be objective?
  • How would you resolve situations in which personal ethics differ from professional ethics?
  • What section of the ABA Professional Code of Conduct for attorneys governs situations of this type?

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