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Despite the right to a jury trial, between 95 and 98% of criminal convictions in the United States result in guilty pleas, a number that has risen sharply in recent years. In a paper published in Psychology, Policy and LawJohanna Hellgren, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, and Saul M. Kassin, professor of psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, studied many the defense. The counsel’s recommendations are based on their belief in the defendant’s guilt or innocence and through estimates of the possibility of being found guilty in court – and the consequences for those accused.

“As part of the professional practice, criminal defense attorneys submit requests, investigate the case, and advise their clients accordingly, often based on the apparent strength of testify against their clients,” Hellgren said. “Through our investigation, we tried to conclude that strong evidence in each case suggested accepting a counter offer because of indicates that the accused is completely guilty or innocent, because it indicates a sentence or a release in court, or, because of a combination of these important things.”

Since the mid-1920s, the plea bargain—a process that induces defendants to plead guilty in exchange for “significant reductions”—has become a common method of resolving criminal cases. crime in the United States, only 2-3% of cases result in a full jury trial. Despite theory and research suggesting that defendants often plead guilty “in the face of the court,” a belief that depends on the purposes of the trial, Hellgren and Kassin found that attorneys who base their recommendations on a number of technical considerations.

In their paper, the researchers conducted two experiments in which lawyers received a file of cases that contained high-quality evidence and were determined to be admissible or not admissible in a future trial. Participants read a case file containing a police report; written confession or denial of the defendant; a motion and decision to suppress evidence (a criminal confession in Study 1; an evidentiary statement seen in Study 2) were granted or denied; interview information of the defense attorney in which the defendant declared his innocence or not; and terms of a tender offer. The participants then make a yes suggestion and express their beliefs about the guilt of the accused and the outcome of the trial.

Hellgren and Kassin found that, although the confession increased the defendant’s opinion, lawyers preferred to accept the offer only when the acceptance of that confession was confirmed by the judgment. In the second study, witness testimony increased presumptions of innocence, but lawyers were more likely to recommend rejecting the offer of guilt. trial only when the admissibility of that evidence was ordered at trial. The defendant’s claims of innocence to the defense attorney had little effect. They concluded that the practice often leaves defense attorneys with little choice but to rely on special considerations when assisting their clients and make policy recommendations related to reform in both directions.

First, the high rates of what is known as “pea discount”—that is, when defendants who claim their rights in court face a “punishment” in punishment for doing so. For example, the National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers using data from the US Sentencing Commission (2017) found that those charged in court received sentences 3.27 times more than those who pleaded guilty. equal. Second, they noted that defense attorneys often do not have access to case file information that would allow for an intelligent analysis of actual guilt and innocence as well as the possibility of a vindication independent of their client. .

More information:
Johanna Hellgren et al, The counsel of the defense attorney: Eliminating the effects of guilt and the possibility of guilt, Psychology, Public Policy, and Law (2022). DOI: 10.1037/law0000365

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