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Fairness For All? Public Perceptions of Plea Bargaining

Description: In the United States, most criminal cases are adjudicated through guilty pleas; yet, little is known about the public’s perceptions of plea bargaining. Here, we applied two competing theories-- a procedural justice framework and plea-bargaining in the “shadow of the trial” theory-- to analyze the impact that process-relevant and evidence-relevant plea bargain variables have on the public’s opinion of fairness for defendants, victims, and the greater community. Participants read two vignettes that summarized different plea bargain scenarios with nine key variables manipulated: the type of crime and its consequences, the defendant’s prior record, the strength of the evidence against the defendant, the severity of the plea deal sentence, the mandatory minimum sentence associated with the crime, the coerciveness of the plea deal, the presence of emerging exculpatory evidence, and the proximity to trial. Our findings reveal that factors thought to influence the process and outcomes of plea bargaining do not neatly map onto laypeople’s perceptions of procedural and outcome fairness and that evidentiary factors and prior attitudes may influence public perceptions of fairness more than procedural variables. These results highlight the need to further investigate the ways in which procedural justice and shadow of the trial frameworks can be applied to the study of public perceptions of plea bargaining.

Suggested Citation:
Khogali, M., Jones, K., Penrod, S., (2019). Fairness For All? Public Perceptions of Plea Bargaining [Electronic Version]. Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, 14(2), 136-153.

Keywords: Plea bargaining; public perceptions; fairness; procedural justice

Date: Jan 23, 2019 | File Size: 360.08 Kb | Downloads: 165

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