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June 17, 2020

ABA releases new guide to understanding prosecutorial discretion

CHICAGO, June 17, 2020 — Just published by the American Bar Association, “Can They Do That? Understanding Prosecutorial Discretion” fully examines the nearly absolute and unreviewable power of government prosecutors to choose whether or not to bring criminal charges, and what charges to bring, in cases where the evidence would justify charges.

Author Melba Pearson helps the reader understand how these decisions are made and discusses how much discretion does and should a prosecutor have? Pearson brings together diverse perspectives to consider those questions in the voices of prosecutors, judges, public defenders, theorists and advocates for reform. Rather than taking a purely critical approach, “Can They Do That?” brings much needed nuance to the complex issue of prosecutorial discretion. It will be a valuable resource for criminal law practitioners, law students, prosecutors’ offices and anyone interested in the topic — lawyers as well as the general voting public.

Aspects of prosecutorial discretion explored in this volume include:

·         Theory and historical context

·         Checks on prosecutorial power

·         Positive and negative impacts, with examples

·         Insights into prosecutors’ decision-making processes

·         Comparative international perspective


Pearson is a former homicide prosecutor in Miami, Flor­ida. She is past president of the National Black Prosecutors Associa­tion (NBPA) and past president of the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association in South Florida. She is co-chair of the Pros­ecution Function Committee of the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association.

Title:                 “Can They Do That? Understanding Prosecutorial Discretion

Publisher:         ABA Book Publishing

Pages:              352

Product Code:   5090171

ISBN:                9781641055963

Size:                 6 x 9, Paperback

Price:                $99.95

Order:               800-285-2221 or

Author interviews and review copies of this book are available by emailing Francine Bennett at [email protected]. If you publish a review of this book, please send tear sheets or a copy for our files to Francine Bennett, ABA Book Publishing, 1050 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.