Smallest Geographic Unit:
New York (state),
- 2010--2011 (Phase I)
- 2005--2006 (Phase II)
Date of Collection:
Unit of Observation:
Phase I: All criminal court judges, prosecuting attorneys and defense attorneys in the United States between 2010 and 2011. Phase II: All adult defendants in felony cases in two New York state counties in 2005 and 2006.
administrative records data,
Data Collection Notes:
These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they there received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except of the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompany readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collections and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.
The purpose of the study was to compare how the quantity versus the quality of evidence influences the likelihood of trial convictions and plea decisions and examine whether evidence has differential impacts on the perceived likelihood of trial convictions and plea values.
In Phase I (Phase I Data, n=2,593) defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, completed an online survey of a hypothetical legal case in which the presence of three types of evidence (confession, eyewitness, and DNA) and length of defendant criminal history were manipulated. Respondents were randomly assigned to one of 16 conditions and had the opportunity to view 32 file folders (randomly place for each participant) each containing a different piece of information pertaining to the hypothetical cases (e.g., Defendant's race, alibi, etc.) which they could choose to view at their discretion.
In Phase II (Phase II Data, n=502), researchers worked with two District Attorneys' offices in New York state to code the contents of case files. County A was a small, mostly rural county, whereas County B was a mid-sized county with a small urban core. Researchers coded 502 closed cases from 2005 and 2006, all of which originated as felony arrests. Researchers also obtained criminal history record information on the defendants involved in the cases.
To recruit Phase I participants (n=2,593) researchers relied primarily on email requests. Contact information was obtained through collaboration with several national organizations, including the American Bar Association, the American Judges Association, the National Judicial College, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, numerous state-level organizations, as well as district attorney and public defender offices and public email lists of individual attorneys and judges available online. Email invitations described the purpose of the study, and that it was anonymous and voluntary. A link to the survey website was included, which persons could choose to follow. No financial or other incentives were offered to participate.
For Phase II of the study, researchers obtained permission to code the district attorney files for felony arrests in two counties in the State of New York (referred to as County A and County B).
Three criteria were applied to select cases to code:
- First, researchers selected cases beginning in 2005 and 2006, which helped to ensure that the cases were closed;
- Second, researchers only coded cases that originated as adult felony arrest. In New York, 16 years old is the age of majority for criminal responsibility; and
- Third, researchers aimed to include all trials, as there were estimated to be relatively rare events.
In County A, a relatively small county (population less than 50,000), 243 cases were coded, which was almost the entire population of cases originating as felony arrests in 2005 and 2006. In County B, a larger county (population greater than 100,000), researchers collected a sample of 259 cases using a stratified sampling approach. Specifically, the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services reported that there were 2,127 felony arrest in 2005 and 2006. Researchers selected and coded all available cases that went to trial (n=8). For the rest of cases, researchers first determined for each case whether it was remanded to local court or remained in Supreme Court. Local court case files were stored in boxes at the basement of County B's courthouse. In each box, researchers counted the total number of eligible cases. Then researchers randomly selected one case out of each box to include in the sample. A total of 154 lower court cases were selected using this method. Another 105 Supreme Court cases were randomly selected from the arrest list.
Phase I: None. Phase II: Each case has two weights. The first weight, sampling weight, is the number of cases each case represent. The second weight was an analytic weight for County B that made the weighted sample size of County B roughly the same size as County A while still reflecting the stratified sampling nature of County B.
Mode of Data Collection:
Description of Variables:
Phase I (Phase I Data, 99 variables, n=2,593) includes variables on respondent demographics, such as age, gender, year practicing law, year law degree was obtained, role (judge, prosecuting attorney or defense attorney), number of cases per year, percent of cases dismissed, plead out and taken to trial, state, county type and county population. The remaining variables pertain to the hypothetical legal case, if the respondent viewed the available evidence files, and the respondent's decision to take or reject a plea given the evidence.
Phase II (Phase Data, 460 variables, n=502) variables include initial charge type, charge class, type of crime, criminal history of the defendant including number of prior felony and misdemeanor convictions and probation violations, age and race of the victims, relationships between the victim and defendant, final charges, type of sentence (jail time, fine/restitution, community service), special court sentences (drug court or honor court), type of post-release supervision and programs the defendant was sentence to complete, availability of witnesses and other evidence, statutory minimum and maximum sentences at charge, and total number of pieces of evidence.
Phase I: 2,593 individuals viewed the survey. Of those, 1,664 completed the survey for a response rate of 64.17 percent. Phase II: Not applicable.
Presence of Common Scales: