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 what paper published in Psychology, Policy and Law, Johanna Hellgren, is a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Quattrone Center for Judicial Administrationand Saul M. Kassin, professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, studied how defense attorneys’ counsel is influenced by their beliefs about guilt or innocence. the defendant and through the estimates of the six-of. -punishment in court-and consequences for defendants.
“As part of the due process, attorneys who submit applications, research the case, and advise their clients accordingly, it is usually based on the clear strength of the evidence against their clients,” Hellgren said. “Through our research, we tried to clarify whether strong evidence in an individual case supports the recommendation to accept a plea offer because it indicates that the defendant is actually guilty or not, because it indicates a conviction or sentence in court, or, because it is a combination these things are important.”
Since the mid-1920s, the plea bargain—a practice that induces defendants to plead guilty in exchange for “significant reductions”—has become a common method of settlement. criminal cases in the United States, only 2–3% of cases result in a full jury trial. Despite theory and research suggesting that defendants are often advised to plead guilty “in the shadow of justice,” a belief that depends on the goals of the courts, Hellgren and Kassin found that attorneys who base their recommendations on a number of technical considerations.
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 left lawyers with no choice but to rely on practical considerations when helping their clients.
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