Monday, January 26, 2015

Interesting Op-Ed Re "Serial" and Plea Bargaining

Many people have listed to the hit podcast "Serial" by now.  For those who have not, it is an extremely interesting show detailing the prosecution of Adnan Syed for the 1999 murder of his former high school girlfriend.

This weekend, The New York Times published an Op-Ed about the case.  This is not surprising given the recent publicity around the Podcast.  What was surprising, however, was that the Op-Ed dealt less with the evidence against Syed and more with the fact that he did not plead guilty.

From the introduction:

OUR modern criminal justice system is designed to avoid jury trials. Through investigation and considered use of discretion, prosecutors are expected to charge only when there is sufficient evidence to convict. Once charged, defendants are encouraged to plead guilty in part to avoid a “trial penalty” — a longer sentence after a trial, often a much longer one. And 95 percent of them do just that. The Supreme Court acknowledged this reality in 2012 when it described our criminal process as “a system of pleas.”
You can read the entire Op-Ed here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Excellent Opportunity for Doctoral Students and Recent Ph.D. Graduates re Guilty Pleas

Are you interested in researching the processes that generate guilty pleas? Are you currently studying guilty pleas or plea bargaining (e.g., criminal sentencing outcomes)?  The Research Coordination Network (RCN) on Understanding Guilty Pleas is hosting a research workshop June 2-3, 2015, at the University at Albany, in Albany NY. We are seeking doctoral-level graduate students and recent Ph.D. graduates from any discipline interested in participating. This is an excellent opportunity to network with an interdisciplinary group of well-known scholars keenly focused on making groundbreaking progress in this important but under-researched area.

The RCN, funded by the National Science Foundation and led by Professor Shawn Bushway, was created to invigorate interdisciplinary research on guilty pleas and related decision-making processes. The RCN includes three cores focused on prosecutorial, defense, and courtroom workgroup decision-making. More about the RCN and its members can be found at

The conference will host approximately 40 scholars interested in the empirical study of guilty pleas, representing the fields of economics, criminology/criminal justice, psychology, sociology, law, public policy, political science, etc. There will be plenary presentations of current or recent research on the cutting edge of guilty plea research, a group-networking dinner, and a poster session.

Funding is available for up to 10 doctoral students and individuals who have received their doctorate within the past three years (2012 or later). Funding includes travel to and from the conference, lodging, and a per diem. The workshop is open to both individuals who are interested in getting more involved in this important area of research and to individuals who are actively conducting research in the area of guilty pleas.  Applications from minorities are strongly encouraged.

1) For Individuals Interested in Plea Research. To apply, email the following materials by March 1, 2015 to
  • A one-to two-page (single-spaced, 12-point font) essay explaining your interest in guilty plea research. Applicants who are able to integrate their past or current research endeavors to plea-relevant research will have a higher chance of success. Applicants with viable research questions/ideas will also have a higher chance of success
  •  Curriculum vitae
  •  Name and contact information (email, phone number) of your graduate advisor or main reference

2) For Individuals Already Conducting Plea Research. To apply, email the following materials by March 1, 2015 to
  • A 750-word abstract of a current plea-related project.  The project does not need to be finished and can be on any element that affects the process that generates guilty pleas.  If selected, you will present your research as a poster at the workshop poster session
  •  Curriculum vitae
  • Name and contact information (email, phone number) of your graduate advisor or main reference

For questions, please contact Professor Allison Redlich,, 518-442-4217.