Private Prosecution in America

Its Origins, History, and Unconstitutionality in the Twenty-First Century

by John D. Bessler

Tags: Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Legal History

1024 pp $120.00

ISBN 978-1-5310-2006-4
eISBN 978-1-5310-2007-1

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Private Prosecution in America is the first comprehensive examination of a practice that dates back to the colonial era. Tracking its origins to medieval times and the English common law, the book shows how "private prosecutors" were once a mainstay of early American criminal procedure. Private prosecutors—acting on their own behalf, as next of kin, or through retained counsel—initiated prosecutions, presented evidence in court, and sought the punishment of offenders.

Until the rise and professionalization of public prosecutors' offices, private prosecutors played a major role in the criminal justice system, including in capital cases. After conducting a 50-state survey and recounting how some locales still allow private prosecutions by interested parties, the book argues that such prosecutions violate defendants' constitutional rights and should be outlawed.

"A major work of original and meticulous historical research and scholarship, Private Prosecution in America: Its Origins, History, and Unconstitutionality in the Twenty-First Century is an extraordinary and unique contribution to the history of American jurisprudence. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, Private Prosecution in America: Its Origins, History, and Unconstitutionality in the Twenty-First Century is especially and unreservedly recommended as a very special and prized addition to professional, community, college, and university library judicial studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists."
Midwest Book Review