Sunday, July 01, 2007

Juries getting it wrong 13% of time?

Yikes! A study from Northwestern University (pdf) estimating the accuracy of jury verdicts finds juries in criminal cases get it wrong 13% of the time. The likelihood of a wrongful conviction, the study found, is nearly twice that of a wrongful acquittal.

In Texas, less than one percent of all convictions result from jury verdicts. The rest end in plea bargains, so most criminal defendants never get near a jury. We also know plea agreements can result in coerced wrongful convictions, as evidenced in Hearne, Tulia and the Dallas fake drug scandal, so perhaps a more important study might be to figure out how often THAT process gets it wrong.

Via Scientific Blogging

UPDATE: See a good analysis of the study from Deliberations, a blog I've only recently discovered and added to Grits' blogroll.


Anonymous said...

In my personal experience, law enforcement has a perfect record -- of absolute failure without exception.

I work in a field where truth has primacy, where people check other people's work to catch our own (usually honest) mistakes.

Law enforcement and criminal prosecution both forbid anyone checking their work -- or even witnessing it. Why would you think that is?

Anonymous said...

In my opinion law enforcement is sick!! The man who puts on a policeman's uniform becomes an evil person who does not even recognize the human he is dealing with. Granted there are some who are in need of being arrested, but to arrest everyone, and just because they can is wrong and we need to take a careful look at law enforcement and the judicial system in Texas. Both are out of control and we have become a police state much like Communist Russia or the Hitler area. Sad, for we were once a respected country and now we are hated by the majority of the world.

JT Barrie said...

Some police are far more honest than others. The problem is that the "good" police won't intervene against the "bad" police when they screw up. The Code of Silence makes immoral acts of omission the norm for all police. It's not that we don't have enough honest cops it's just that the crooks are seldom disciplined for their misconduct by the honest ones - unless the misconduct is already widely known by the public.

Anonymous said...

J.T. Barrie you are correct. Our son is a police officer and he will be the first to tell you there is a code of silence. That is instilled in each of them who attend the police accademy.

If the honest police officers were to come forward and point out the bad cops, then there would be one of the worst upheavels in the police station and our son would lose his job. He has reached the position of Sgt. and his men respect him but he does not tolerate any nonsense from any of them and they still respect him.

Good cop, bad cop, is a game that is hard to win. Try going to Houston if you want to see some bad cops!!

Mark Bennett said...


Nobody ever pleads guilty who is not factually guilty -- judges ensure this by making them swear, as part of the plea, that they are pleading guilty "because they are guilty, and for no other reason."

a friend of justice said...

Nobody ever pleads guilty who is not factually guilty? B--- S---! You might as well say nobody ever pleads innocent who is not factually innocent. People plead innocent when they are guilty because they perceive that it is in their best interest to do so. People plead guilty when they are factually innocent for exactly the same reason: they perceive that it is in their best interest to do so.

When your friends are being convicted by juries with no evidence save the uncorroborated testimony of a corrupt cop, and receiving sentences of 25, 40, 90 years, and the DA offers you a five yr. sentence if you will cop a plea, that offer is mighty tempting.

I have personally witnessed, in the court room, a young woman who was persuaded to plead guilty. The judge went through his spiel of "you are pleading guilty because you are guilty, and for no other reason." She just stood there a few seconds, smiling, until the judge rebuked her sternly for grinning at such a serious moment. Then she responded, "Yes, your honor." I asked her later what she was thinking. She was thinking that she could be back with her children sooner by taking this plea than if she was convicted at trial, as was happening with her friends. I knew that without asking her. Incidentally, the Texas Criminal Justice system ultimately vindicated her, despite her perjury before the judge that day. The governor pardoned her, and her record has been expunged.