It shall be the primary duty of all prosecuting attorneys, including any special prosecutors, not to convict, but to see that justice is done.

Note that "shall" has specific meaning defined in Sec. 311.016 of the Texas Gov't Code as

"Shall" imposes a duty."

My question is:

Are Texas D.A.'s given independence from the law (aka statutes)? Because, who knows what "justice" is?


They are not given independence from statute.

This clause just says that conviction is not the end goal of the prosecutor.

If in light of the evidence, the prosecutor comes to believe a person is not guilty, they are not to proceed with the prosecution.

They must not hide exculpatory or mitigating evidence in order to get a conviction.

  • 3
    The principle of prosecutorial discretion has been affirmed multiple times by the Supreme Court: e.g. Wayte v. United States 470 U.S. 598 (1985), Bordenkircher v. Hayes 434 U.S. 357 (1978). Nothing in 2.01 compells a prosecution in any particular case. – user3851 Jul 23 '16 at 14:06
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    Have you read what Wayte v US and Borderkircher v Hayes have to say about prosecutorial discretion? I don't want to just repeat what they've said. Also, this is getting off topic for this question. So if you have a further question about prosecutorial discretion, I'd suggest asking it as a new question. – user3851 Jul 23 '16 at 14:31
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    @RonRoyston I'm getting the impression from your comments on this answer and on another answer that you are looking for a specific answer that suits your beliefs. Your opinions can be given out, but do remember that you are on a constructive Q&A site, not a discussion forum. As for the answer, Dawn is correct. Their aim is to seek justice, as it says that rightfully so in the statute, and in numerous judgments by various court of laws. – Zizouz212 Jul 23 '16 at 14:59
  • Prosecutor is given latitude to simply not pursue the case. Has nothing to do with whether the elements of the crime [statute] were met. – Ronnie Royston Apr 3 '17 at 1:49

As I understand it, the prosecutor's aim should be to serve justice as written in the law, that is, convict the right person. So, one shouldn't ignore evidence that would exonerate your suspect. In court, the prosecutor's aim is to present the truth, interpreting the evidence in an objective way, asking witnesses questions that help revealing what exactly happened, etc., instead of bending the interpretation in the worst possible way for the defendant, or asking questions meant to reinforce the idea of guilty.

So, if a witness brings up a piece of information that may exonerate the defendant, the prosecutor's duty is to examine this further, not to shut it off.

  • Fortunately for you, you've obviously not been party to a criminal court case in Texas. In particular, "In court, the prosecutor's aim is to present the truth" compelled me to comment. Thank you for your answer though. – Ronnie Royston Jul 23 '16 at 13:55
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    @RonRoyston that is what the law says their duty is. If they don't do it, well, that is a different story. – Davidmh Jul 23 '16 at 14:15
  • Respectfully, no it's not their duty. The term truth isn't in the Statute. In fact if you look at the Oath of TX Attorneys given it says they will "honestly demean myself in the practice of law;". – Ronnie Royston Jul 23 '16 at 14:29

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