Thursday, May 31, 2012

Professor Dervan to Discuss Plea Bargaining on Public Radio International's "To the Point" with Warren Olney

On Friday, June 1, 2012, from 2:00-3:00pm eastern, Professor Dervan will discuss plea bargaining on Public Radio International's To the Point with Warren Olney.  Among other things, the show will discuss the case of Brian Banks and plea bargaining's innocence problem.
The show is syndicated nationally and available in many metropolitan markets.  Further, you can link to the show here.  At the show's website, you can access additional materials, listen to the show live, and link to a podcast of the show after the broadcast.

New Empirical Study Regarding Plea Bargaining's Innocence Problem

I just posted an article online regarding a new empirical study conducted by myself and Professor Vanessa Edkins that examines plea bargaining's innocence problem.  Below is an abstract of the piece, which is entitled The Innocent Defendant’s Dilemma: An Innovative Empirical Study of Plea Bargaining’s Innocence Problem.  You can access a free copy of the article here.


Abstract


In 1989, Ada JoAnn Taylor was accused of murder and presented with stark options. If she pleaded guilty, she would be rewarded with a sentence of ten to forty years in prison. If, however, she proceeded to trial and was convicted, she would likely spend the rest of her life behind bars. Over a thousand miles away in Florida and more than twenty years later, a college student was accused of cheating and presented with her own incentives to admit wrongdoing and save the university the time and expense of proceeding before a disciplinary review board. Both women decided the incentives were enticing and pleaded guilty.

That Taylor and the college student both pleaded guilty is not the only similarity between the cases. Both were also innocent of the offenses for which they had been accused. After serving nineteen years in prison, Taylor was exonerated after DNA testing proved that neither she nor any of the other five defendants who pleaded guilty in her case were involved in the murder. As for the college student, her innocence is assured by the fact that, unbeknownst to her, she was actually part of an innovative new study into plea bargaining and innocence. The study, conducted by the authors, involving dozens of college students, and taking place over several months, not only recreated the innocent defendant’s dilemma experienced by Taylor, but revealed that plea bargaining’s innocence problem is not isolated to an obscure and rare set of cases.

Strikingly, the authors’ study found that over half of the participants were willing to falsely admit guilt in return for a perceived benefit. This finding not only brings finality to the long-standing debate regarding the possible extent of plea bargaining’s innocence problem, but also ignites a fundamental constitutional question regarding an institution the Supreme Court reluctantly approved of in 1970 in return for an assurance it would not be used to induce innocent defendants to falsely admit guilt.



Link to the entire article here (free to download). 

The Case of Brian Banks and Plea Bargaining's Innocence Problem

There has been much attention recently to the case of Brian Banks in California.  This is a fascinating example of the incentives created by sentencing differentials and the issue of plea bargaining's innocence problem.  Ten years ago, Banks faced a stark choice between proceeding to trial, which came with a probable sentence of 41 years to life in prison, or taking a plea deal, with a promised sentence of three years.  Like so many others and despite his innocence, Banks took the deal.

From NPR:

Five years in prison. Then five years of probation and wearing an electronic monitoring device. The shame of being a registered sex offender. Not being able to get a job. His dream of playing in the NFL destroyed, possibly forever. 
Brian Banks, now 26, has gone through all that.Then Thursday, the California man's rape conviction was dismissed.  
His accuser, who last year sent Banks a message on Facebook suggesting that they "let bygones be bygones," had been videotaped saying she lied about being raped. Wanetta Gibson's previous statements to police about the alleged 2002 incident had been the only evidence against Banks — there was no physical evidence that Banks had raped her. With the change in her story, prosecutors and a judge agreed, there was no case.Having his name cleared made for "the greatest day of my life," Banks told Southern California Public Radio's Patt Morrison. Not only does the conviction come off his record, but the electronic monitor comes off his ankle and he no longer has to register as a sex offender. 
The former high school football star, who once seemed to be on the way to playing for the University of Southern California, says he now wants to pursue that lifelong dream of playing in the NFL. 
Banks' story, which he's scheduled to talk about later today with All Things Considered, raises anew questions about the U.S. legal system. After his arrest, as KPCC reports, Banks' lawyer "urged him to plead no contest rather than risk a sentence of 41 years to life in prison if convicted."


Read the entire story from NPR and the All Things Considered Interview here.