Emily Bazelon, Yale Law School

Criminal Justice Reform and the (Almost) Absolute Power of the American Prosecutor

Date: 
Wed, 04/13/2016
Location: 
Dodds Auditorium, Robertson Hall
Audience: 
Public

Please join us for the Donald S. Bernstein '75 Lecture with Emily Bazelon Senior Research Scholar in Law, Truman Capote Fellow for Creative Writing and Law, and Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School.

The American criminal justice system is supposed to be a contest between two equal adversaries, the prosecution and the defense, with judges ensuring a fair fight. On paper, that’s how it works. But in practice, it is increasingly prosecutors who actually call the shots. More than anyone else, they decide who goes free and who goes to prison, and even who lives and who dies. Most prosecutors do their jobs ethically and well. And yet, their outsized authority to determine punishment — which charges to bring, what plea deal to offer — accounts for much of the harsh and punitive turn of American criminal justice over the last decades. The system wasn’t designed for prosecutors to have virtually  unchecked power. The shift in that direction is the missing piece in understanding convictions of innocent people and mass incarceration  — and addressing both problems.

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine and the Truman Capote fellow for creative writing and law at Yale Law School. She wrote the national best seller Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy and has been a frequent guest on “The Colbert Report.” Before joining The Times Magazine, Bazelon was a writer and editor at Slate, where she co-founded the women’s section, "DoubleX." She continues to co-host the “Slate Political Gabfest,” a weekly podcast. Bazelon has previously been a Soros media fellow and has worked as an editor and writer at Legal Affairs magazine and as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. She is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School. 

The Bernstein Lecture, started in 2005 through the generosity of Donald S. Bernstein '75, brings a significant legal scholar to campus each year.  Previous Bernstein Lecturers include Judge Richard Posner (2005), Kenneth Roth (2006), Robert C. Post (2007), Cass R. Sunstein (2008),Israeli Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch (2009), Jack M. Balkin (2010), Yochai Benkler (2011),  Christopher Eisgruber (2013), and Trevor Potter (2014).