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Private Prosecution in America


Private Prosecution in America

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

by John D. Bessler

Forthcoming December 2021 hardback

ISBN978-1-5310-2006-4
e-ISBN978-1-5310-2007-1

Tags: Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Legal History


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 though 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. 


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