SAGE Journal Articles

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Journal Article 1: Ehrhard-Dietzel, S. (2012). The use of life and death as tools in plea bargaining. Criminal Justice Review37, 89–109.

Abstract: Given its severity, the death penalty may play a unique role in plea bargaining, unlike that of a lesser maximum sentence of life without parole, which involves the defendant’s loss of his freedom but not the loss of his life. The possibility of a death sentence may be powerful incentive for the defense to accept a plea bargain; accordingly, prosecutors may use the death penalty as leverage to induce a guilty plea in death-eligible cases. Interviews with prosecutors and defense attorneys in a state where the maximum punishment for murder is death and a state where the maximum punishment for murder is life without parole are used to explore the role of the death penalty as leverage in plea bargaining, as compared to the role of a maximum sentence of life without parole. Findings suggest that prosecutors are not necessarily inclined to charge capital murder in order to induce a guilty plea, given considerations including ethics and financial cost, considerations that are largely absent from decision making in cases where the maximum possible sentence is life without parole.

Journal Article 2: Worrall, J. L., Ross, J. W., & McCord, E. S. (2005). Modeling prosecutors’ charging decisions in domestic violence cases. Crime & Delinquency52, 472–503.

Abstract: Relatively little research explaining prosecutors’ charging decisions in criminal cases is available. Even less has focused on charging decisions in domestic violence cases. Past studies have also relied on restrictive definitions of domestic violence, notably cases with male offenders and female victims, and they have not considered prosecutors’ decisions to pursue misdemeanor instead of felony charges—or vice versa. In response to these limitations, the authors collected data on prosecutors’ charging decisions in 245 domestic violence cases filed by police officers in a Southern California city. They then examined the effects of victim, offender, and case characteristics on prosecutors’ charging decisions. The authors found that (a) arrest and serious victim injuries were associated with prosecutors’ charging decisions, (b) criminal charges were more likely in cases with male suspects, and (c) victim preference for prosecution was likely to result in felony rather than misdemeanor charges.