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Reframing the Power of Prosecutors

An alumnus and one-time Boston prosecutor has added his voice to the growing calls across the nation for criminal justice reform. The July 19 essay by Dylan Hayre ’11 on public radio station WBUR’s Cognoscenti opinion page, drives home the temptations, flaws, and systemic rigidity that can undermine even the most well-intentioned lawyer trying to determine the fates of people who’ve run afoul of the law. Read his article here.

“Prosecutors must have the training and the encouragement,” Hayre writes, “to prioritize decisions that err on the side of caution and fairness over decisions made solely for the purposes of convictions or sentences.”

Hayre’s emphasis on empowering prosecutors to do the right thing echoes an idea put forth by another former prosecutor, Adam Foss, who spoke at one of several BC Law events last spring on the subject. Foss argued that judicious decisions by prosecutors were the single most important lever for straightening out the criminal justice system. Without that, he said, there could be no effective reform.

In his commentary, Hayre points to another source of wisdom on the matter, Professor R. Michael Cassidy’s Prosecutorial Ethics. Cassidy writes that the “obligation to see ‘justice’ implies a duty on the part of prosecutors to take steps to insure…truth, procedural fairness, and proportionality.”

Hayre also drew on his personal experiences to make his case in Cognoscenti.

After leaving the DA’s office, he became a political organizer and also started a solo practice called “Lawyer for Soldiers,” which he eventually folded into the firm where he now works, Dhar Law LLP, in Charlestown.

All of his experience convinced Hayre that this was an opportune moment to join the chorus for reform. “I felt it was a good time to try to bring my perspective and commentary to the forefront in a more noticeable way,” he says, “because there was an appetite for it and because it could be impactful now as more and more pieces of reform legislation are being considered or discussed.”

 

 

 

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