Apr 26, 2010

The Trial Penalty

The right of an accused to a jury trial is fundamental in the United States.  But perhaps we should put an asterisk next to the word fundamental.  A recent study indicates that a "trial penalty" is alive and well. According to the study, when all other factors are controlled for, accused people who go to trial and are found guilty are punished more harshly than those who plead guilty. The study, published in Vol 27 of the Justice Quarterly (2010) is entilted

"Trial Penalties in Federal Sentencing: Extra-Guidelines Factors and District Variation."


An ad that a local lawyer has run for many years states that "Friends don't let friends plead guilty."  Maybe this is backwards.  Given the existence of a trial penalty, maybe friends shouldn't let friends go to trial.