K. Babe Howell


This Article examines inflammatory statements by prosecutors in the context of mass gang indictments. I contend that inflammatory remarks not only harm the justice system and defendants, particularly minorities, but also that, when prosecutors craft and repeat hyperbolic narratives about vicious gang wars, prosecutors may come to believe the narratives and become effectively blinded to the fact that these narratives are improper, unfair, and untrue. First, I review the professional rules, standards, and case law that prohibit. Then, drawing on press releases and trial transcripts from two mass gang indictments in New York City, I demonstrate how prosecution statements exaggerate and misrepresent the violence attributed to the targets of gang sweeps. This Article then discusses several societal harms that inflammatory narratives may exacerbate. Inflammatory narratives which improperly attribute carnage and enormous amounts of violence to large groups of young men of color play into three pressing problems of society—racism, wrongful convictions, and mass incarceration. Concluding, I call on all prosecutors, and particularly those who would make claims to a progressive agenda, to eschew inflammatory narratives and the over-prosecution of youth of color based on theories of vicarious liability.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.