This book has focused on the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence because it is the primary source of the rules that regulate the criminal process. The courts are not institutionally equipped to solve many of the most pressing problems of American criminal justice, such as mass incarceration, racial disparities in policing, overzealous prosecutors, and inadequate defense counsel; legislatures, not courts, are primarily responsible for overly harsh sentencing policies and inadequate resources, and policing and prosecutorial agencies are ultimately responsible for how the law is enforced. Nonetheless, as this book has demonstrated, the courts’ construal of the Bill of Rights, and of related statutes and rules, can significantly influence the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in ways that affect all of these areas.
Recall from Chapter 1 the most commonly advanced goals of American criminal procedure: reliably determining whether the criminal law has been violated; cabining government power; providing a process that appears fair; and ensuring lay participation in decision-making. That the criminal justice system only imperfectly achieves all of these goals is, to some extent, inevitable, since they often directly conflict. Most obviously, sanctions meant to penalize government misconduct—whether they involve exclusion of probative evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth or Fifth Amendments or dismissal of a case on the ground that the prosecutor or judge is responsible for structural error—can prevent conviction of clearly guilty people. The requirements that the government prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, without any help from a defendant who...
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