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Pub. Type Report
Title How Much Difference Does the Lawyer Make? The Effect of Defense Counsel on Murder Case Outcomes
Author(s) Anderson, James M.
Heaton, Paul
Subtitle/Series Name Working Paper
Pub. Date Dec 2011
Abstract Public defenders in Philadelphia reduced their indigent clients? murder conviction rate by 19 percent and lowered the probability that their clients received a life sentence by 62 percent compared to indigent clients with appointed private counsel. Public defenders reduced overall expected time served in prison by 24 percent. There was no difference in the overall number of charges for which indigent defendants were found guilty between the two types of counsel. In order to identify possible explanations for the disparity in case outcome between public defenders and appointed private counsel, the study interviewed judges, public defenders, and private attorneys who took court appointments. These interviews suggest that the causes of the disparity in case outcomes between cases with public defenders and those with appointed private counsel stem from incentive structures created by the appointment system and a resulting failure of appointed private counsel to prepare cases as thoroughly as the public defenders. It is the responsibility of legislators and court policymakers to ensure that the court system of a jurisdiction monitors and maintains a high quality of defense services for indigent defendants; otherwise, the right to counsel rests upon a defendant?s financial resources rather than the court?s commitment to equal justice for all. The basic dataset for this study included a sample of 3,412 defendants charged with murder in Philadelphia between 1994 and 2005 in Municipal Court. 5 tables and 2 figures source
Issue/No. NCJ 242563
Producer RAND Corporation
Place of Production Santa Monica, CA

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