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The Effect of the Election of Prosecutors on Criminal Trials

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  • Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay
  • Bryan C McCannon

Abstract

We examine if elections of public prosecutors (as is common in the U.S.) influence the way they handle cases. In particular, does it affect which cases are taken to trial? A theoretical model is constructed where voters use outcomes of the criminal justice system as a signal of prosecutor's quality. This leads to a distortion of the mix of cases they take to trial. Our results imply that when re-election pressures are high (i) prosecutors take too many cases to trial. This increases the number of convictions from trial and reduces the amount of plea bargaining so that (ii) the proportion of convictions stemming from trial increases. Consequently, (iii) the average sanction obtained in both jury trials and plea bargains decreases. A detailed dataset from North Carolina is used to identify empirical evidence of such distortions. Our empirical findsings verify that elections do affect the decision of which cases to take to trial and confirms our predictions.

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File URL: ftp://ftp.bham.ac.uk/pub/RePEc/pdf/11-08.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Birmingham in its series Discussion Papers with number 11-08.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bir:birmec:11-08

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Postal: Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT
Web page: http://www.economics.bham.ac.uk
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Keywords: elections; prosectutor; trials;

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References

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  1. William M. Landes, 1974. "An Economic Analysis of the Courts," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 164-214 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Eric Rasmusen & Manu Raghav, & Mark Ramseyer, 2008. "Convictions versus Conviction Rates: The Prosecutor’s Choice," Working Papers 2008-16, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
  3. Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Bryan C McCannon, 2010. "Prosecutorial Retention: Signaling by Trial," Discussion Papers 10-11, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Was the election of police commissioners a mistake?
    by Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, Senior Lecturer in Economics at University of Birmingham in The Conversation on 2013-06-21 13:13:04
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Cited by:
  1. Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Bryan C McCannon, 2011. "The Redistricting of Public Prosecutors' Offices," Discussion Papers 11-13, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
  2. Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Bryan C McCannon, 2010. "Re-election Concerns and the Failure of Plea Bargaining," Discussion Papers 10-28, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.

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