The Role & Responsibility of Prosecutors

In this panel, the discussion moves form the abstract to the very specific. Moderator Thomas Metzloff, professor of law at Duke University School of Law, asks the panelists to analyze the actions leading to the disbarment of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.

The speakers, all current or former prosecutors, detail personal experiences dealing with reporters, and discuss the guidelines, written and unwritten, which govern such interaction.

Questions/themes/discussion topics
  • The press as a tool to communicate with the public
  • The press as a watchdog
  • Training of young prosecutors in press interaction
  • The effect of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2002 decision in Minnesota v. White on regulating attorney speech
  • Strategic advantages (or lack thereof) to press interaction
  • To what degree can prosecutors control leaks from their office or, more problematically, from the local police department?
  • Public statements as jury pool pollutants


Panel Video

"I think that how our government is conducted is an important matter for citizen concern, and I think the judicial branch is an important part of our government, so I think it's important for the public to understand the progress of cases through the criminal justice system."

- R. Michael Cassidy

"As a prosecutor I don't want to try my case in the media, and there's lots of reasons. I mean, one is to protect the integrity of the process, be fair to the accused. But I also don't think it's good for my case."

- Colm F. Connolly

"I'm not saying the media and the public don't have a right to access our courts. I'm saying they have a right to access our courts when the case is tried in our courtrooms."

- Marsha Goodenow

"If you have a situation where there is a perception in the community of unequal justice, even if it's wrong, that's something that a prosecutor has a responsibility to address."

- Loretta E. Lynch