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Title page for ETD etd-11072008-124550

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Woods, Laurie Elizabeth
Author's Email Address laurie.woods@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-11072008-124550
Title Sometimes It's Personal: Hate Crime Prosecution in California
Degree PhD
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Gary F. Jensen Committee Chair
Carol Swain Committee Member
Daniel Cornfield Committee Member
George Becker Committee Member
  • prosecutors
  • prosecutorial discretion
  • hate crime
Date of Defense 2008-09-05
Availability unrestricted
This study looks at prosecutors and the criteria they use when determining whether or not to charge a criminal case as a hate crime. By conducting in-depth interviews of prosecutors in California, I explore how decisions concerning hate crime cases are made by those who daily determine, without oversight, which crimes will be prosecuted and which will not. I look at how prosecutors make their decisions, what factors they consider in making their determinations, and how their personal characteristics and feelings may impact their decisions. I collected personal data from the respondents including race/ethnicity, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, religiosity, and political affiliation. I also gathered information pertaining to the prosecutors’ reasons for working hate crimes, their political and professional aspirations, if any, and what factors they consider when deciding if they will charge a case as a hate crime.

As a result of my research, I have identified two distinct types of prosecutors that I have labeled procedural prosecutors and personal prosecutors. Procedural prosecutors typically see their roles in the administration of the criminal justice process as upholding the law, interpreting the chances of a case’s success in the court system and focusing more on the crime and the suspect than on the victim. Personal prosecutors, however, are more likely to file a case that they find interesting or where they have a personal interest in the characteristics of the person who was victimized or feel personally outraged at the victimization.

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