Professor Ronald Wright discusses problems with elections of prosecutors in Intercept article

Photo of Wake Forest Law Professor Ron Wright

Professor Ron Wright is one of the nation’s best known criminal justice scholars. He is the co-author of two casebooks in criminal procedure and sentencing; his empirical research concentrates on the work of criminal prosecutors.

Professor Ronald Wright was quoted in the article, “Hard-line Prosecutors Face Rejection From Voters In Elections Across the U.S.,” published on The Intercept on Oct. 20, 2016.  The article details district attorney elections, unsuccessful prosecutions of defendants like George Zimmerman and more.

Professor Wright is quoted in the following section, “Unchecked Power and No Transparency.”

“Elected prosecutors enjoy unparalleled power in the criminal justice system, while facing little oversight outside the electoral process — and even there, it appears they scarcely face real scrutiny. ‘You basically have unchecked power and no transparency,’ said Daniel Medwed, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law who studies wrongful convictions.

“Prosecutors generally have great job security. Overall, 63 percent have been on the job for five years or more — in larger offices, that number is 70 percent, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2007 report on the nation’s prosecutors. And when seeking re-election, incumbent prosecutors win 95 percent of the time, according to research done by Wake Forest University School of Law professor Ronald Wright, who tracked electoral outcomes from 1996-2006. ‘This evidence shows that voters rarely vote against incumbent prosecutors; more importantly, incumbents face a challenge far less often than incumbents in legislative races,’ Wright wrote in a 2009 article for the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law. ‘In such a setting, prosecutors have little reason to expect that they will have to explain their choices and priorities to the voters. The outcomes, in sum, demonstrate that elections produce low turnover and few challenges.’”