How Much Does the Defense Attorney Matter?

New study by here.  Summary:

One in five indigent murder defendants in Philadelphia are randomly assigned representation by public defenders while the remainder receive court-appointed private attorneys. The authors exploit this random assignment to measure how defense counsel affect murder case outcomes. Compared to appointed counsel, public defenders in Philadelphia reduce their clients’ murder conviction rate by 19% and lower the probability that their clients receive a life sentence by 62%. Public defenders reduce overall expected time served in prison by 24%. They find no difference in the overall number of charges of which defendants are found guilty. When they apply methods used in past studies of the effect of counsel that did not use random assignment, they obtain far more modest estimated impacts, which suggests defendant sorting is an important confounder affecting past research. To understand possible explanations for the disparity in outcomes, they interviewed judges, public defenders, and attorneys who took appointments. Interviewees identified a variety of institutional factors in Philadelphia that decreased the likelihood that appointed counsel would prepare cases as well as the public defenders. The vast difference in outcomes for defendants assigned different counsel types raises important questions about the adequacy and fairness of the criminal justice system.

2 responses to “How Much Does the Defense Attorney Matter?

  1. arkansastruthseeker

    You ask what does the defence attorney matter? I would say about 30,000 dollars against a defendant that has 0 dollars. Fact a public defender here stated she was not allowed to investigate this clients claim of innocence (no joke) she stated that they do not allow her the funds to be able to get records and contact witnesses. and if he did not plea out the judge would sentence him to prison because she has no authority except to stand up in the court room. So any way you look at a public defender even they cant help you if the system does not allow them money to do so. It always boils down to the almighty dollar either way you look at it. Domino effect so the change has to start at the top I don’t see that happening.

  2. This is fascinating, and I think, perhaps, even understated.
    I have just been pondering this issue, particularly with respect to SBS cases, because they require special knowledge and access to “experts”. An indigent suspect accused of an SBS death is in a bad place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s