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Cyrus Vance and Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Dilemmas in a High-Profile Prosecution (A)

 Philip Heymann, Lisa Brem, Emily Balter, and Michael Noveck   (Published: 2013)
Product number:
CSP 001
14 pages
Product Type:
Link to Faculty Author Page:
Link to Free Educator Copy:


The sexual assault allegation against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund and the primary opponent of President Sarkozy in the 2011 French presidential elections, from a maid at Manhattan’s Sofitel Hotel sent shockwaves across the international community and created a media frenzy. Cyrus Vance, Jr. faced several challenges in this, his biggest case so far as the recently elected District Attorney of Manhattan.

The A & B cases explore the dynamics of handling high profile case involving international parties. The cases question if and how high profile cases need to be treated like “ordinary” cases or differently.  They highlight the difficult decisions facing the prosecutors—such as whether or not to grant bail and whether or not to continue the case—and what the repercussions of those decisions will be. Vance and his team also faced complicating factors such as credibility of witnesses, racial, gender, and class issues, and highly charged political pressures. In the A case, participants evaluate the circumstances of the charges, to decide whether Strauss-Kahn should be held without bail; in the B case, participants examine the ensuing trial and assess the District Attorney's leadership throughout the proceedings.

Subjects Covered
Criminal Law, Sexual Assault, District Attorney’s Office

Learning Objectives

  • Consider the forces at play during high profile criminal investigations and prosecutions, and how best to manage criminal cases while under extreme public pressure.
  • Gain experience in developing and articulating alternative scenarios and hypotheses during criminal investigations.
  • Understand the political, professional, and legal repercussions for prosecutorial decisions, including bail decisions and the decisions to bring a case before a jury.


Geographic: United States, France

Event Start Date: 2011

Hard Copy

For hard copies, please contact Lisa Brem E-mail: lbrem@law.harvard.edu; Ph: +1-617-495-8689

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