Several years ago, Japan passed a new law that allowed the use of formal plea bargaining for the first time. Key to the law was a provision that attempted to limit the risk of false pleas by the innocent by requiring that those pleading guilty provide information about a crime committed by a third party. This prevented the type of single defendant plea bargains that are so common in the United States. At the same time, South Korea continued to debate whether they should follow a similar path and permit the use of plea bargaining. All the while, bargained justice continued to dominate the U.S. criminal justice system.
The new legislation in Japan and discussions in South Korea led to the creation of a collaborative research study that brought together scholars from the United States, Japan, and South Korea to examine the innocence issue from a global perspective and test through psychological deception studies whether Japan's attempts to prevent false pleas of guilty would be effective.
We have now published our first paper related to this study, which is available for free download here.
Our findings reveal that false pleas of guilty and the innocent defendant’s dilemma are global phenomena. Further, as mentioned above, we also collected new data regarding the accuracy of testimony offered against third parties in the plea bargaining context. The results of this research may surprise some in the legal community and calls into question the validity and the accuracy of the testimony by those accepting bargains. Our data indicates that a significant number of individuals are not only willing to falsely plead guilty in return for a benefit, they are also willing to falsely testify against others in official proceedings to secure those advantages for themselves. This is the first time laboratory research has demonstrated the false plea phenomenon in different countries, cultures, and legal systems, and the first time laboratory research has established the presence of the phenomenon of false testimony in return for the benefits of a plea bargain.
Below is the full abstract for the piece. I hope you will take a moment to download the full article and read about our statistical findings of false pleas by the innocent and the willingness of participants to falsely testify against others in return for these bargains.
The authors conducted a multi-year psychological deception study in the United States, Japan, and South Korea to gain greater understanding of the phenomenon of false pleas of guilty by the innocent. The study also explored whether innocent participants would be willing to offer false testimony in return for the benefits of a plea bargain. Our data indicate that a significant number of individuals are not only willing to falsely plead guilty in return for a benefit, they are also willing to falsely testify against others in official proceedings to secure those advantages for themselves. This is the first time laboratory research has demonstrated the false plea phenomenon in different countries, cultures, and legal systems. It is also the first time laboratory research has documented the phenomenon of false testimony in return for the benefits of a plea bargain. The article also contains information regarding the history of plea bargaining in the United States, Japan, and South Korea, a discussion of the current debate about plea bargaining in each jurisdiction, and a brief review of potential paths forward to address plea bargaining's innocence problem.
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