Gang-related homicide charging decisions: The implementation of a specialized prosecution unit in Los Angeles

David C. Pyrooz, Scott E. Wolfe, Cassia Spohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This study examines prosecutorial decisions to reject gang-related homicide charges. Focusing on a large, "traditional" gang jurisdiction-Los Angeles-the authors investigate the effect of victim, suspect, and incident characteristics on the likelihood of case rejection for 614 homicide suspects. The data were collected by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office to evaluate Operation Hardcore, a specialized prosecution unit initiated to address the complexities of prosecuting violent gang-related crimes. These data, which captured decisions made in one of the nation's largest district attorney's offices, provide a unique glimpse into how a jurisdiction addressed the growing problem of gang violence. Overall, the results of this study shed light on how prosecutors charge gang-related homicides and how multiple victim cases-which potentially attract more public attention-may influence such decisions. Moreover, the findings also have implications for specialized prosecution units, as they were found to reduce the likelihood of case rejection. Policy implications and directions for future research are offered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-26
Number of pages24
JournalCriminal Justice Policy Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Los Angeles
  • charging decisions
  • gangs
  • homicide
  • prosecutors
  • specialized units
  • victimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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