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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Bryan C McCannon, 2011. "The Effect of the Election of Prosecutors on Criminal Trials," Discussion Papers 11-08, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
  • Handle: RePEc:bir:birmec:11-08
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. SIDDHARTHA BANDYOPADHYAY & BRYAN C. McCANNON, 2015. "Prosecutorial Retention: Signaling by Trial," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 17(2), pages 219-256, April.
    2. Eric Rasmusen & Manu Raghav & Mark Ramseyer, 2009. "Convictions versus Conviction Rates: The Prosecutor's Choice," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 47-78.
    3. Hanssen, F Andrew, 1999. "The Effect of Judicial Institutions on Uncertainty and the Rate of Litigation: The Election versus Appointment of State Judges," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(1), pages 205-232, January.
    4. Richard T. Boylan, 2005. "What Do Prosecutors Maximize? Evidence from the Careers of U.S. Attorneys," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(2), pages 379-402.
    5. Kenneth Rogoff & Anne Sibert, 1988. "Elections and Macroeconomic Policy Cycles," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 55(1), pages 1-16.
    6. 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.
    7. Sumon Majumdar & Sharun W. Mukand, 2004. "Policy Gambles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1207-1222, September.
    8. Joanna M. Shepherd, 2009. "The Influence of Retention Politics on Judges' Voting," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(1), pages 169-206, January.
    9. Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Mandar Oak, 2010. "Conflict and Leadership: Why is There a Hawkish Drift in Politics?," Discussion Papers 10-04, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    10. Farmer, Amy & Pecorino, Paul, 2002. "Pretrial bargaining with self-serving bias and asymmetric information," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 163-176, June.
    11. Boylan, Richard T & Long, Cheryl X, 2005. "Salaries, Plea Rates, and the Career Objectives of Federal Prosecutors," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(2), pages 627-651, October.
    12. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1990. "Equilibrium Political Budget Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 21-36, March.
    13. Clare Leaver, 2009. "Bureaucratic Minimal Squawk Behavior: Theory and Evidence from Regulatory Agencies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 572-607, June.
    14. Carlos Berdejó & Noam Yuchtman, 2013. "Crime, Punishment, and Politics: An Analysis of Political Cycles in Criminal Sentencing," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(3), pages 741-756, July.
    15. Hanssen, F Andrew, 2000. "Independent Courts and Administrative Agencies: An Empirical Analysis of the States," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(2), pages 534-571, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    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 18:13:04

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Nakao Keisuke & Tsumagari Masatoshi, 2012. "Pseudo-Adversarialism: A Theoretical Comparison Between the U.S. and Japanese Criminal Procedures," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 12(1), pages 1-44, October.
    3. Engel, Christoph & Reuben, Alicja, 2015. "The people's hired guns? Experimentally testing the motivating force of a legal frame," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 67-82.
    4. Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Bryan C McCannon, 2011. "The Redistricting of Public Prosecutors' Offices," Discussion Papers 11-13, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    5. Claudio Detotto & Bryan C. McCannon, 2017. "Economic freedom and public, non-market institutions: evidence from criminal prosecution," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 107-128, May.
    6. Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Bryan C McCannon, 2014. "Queuing Up For Justice: Elections and Case Backlogs," Discussion Papers 14-10, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    7. Fleck Robert K. & Hanssen F. Andrew, 2012. "On the Benefits and Costs of Legal Expertise: Adjudication in Ancient Athens," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 8(2), pages 367-399, October.
    8. repec:kap:pubcho:v:172:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11127-017-0448-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2017. "Information suppression by teams and violations of the Brady rule," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 17-00001, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    elections; prosectutor; trials;

    JEL classification:

    • K41 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Litigation Process
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design

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