News You Can Use!

NEWS YOU CAN USE!….Andy Leipold is guest blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy this week. His subject is the conventional wisdom in the law biz which holds that judges are far more likely to convict defendants of crimes than juries are. You know the rap: juries are easy to confuse, easy to emotionally manipulate, and just generally mushy. Judges, who have seen it all, ignore the BS and look straight at the evidence. If it’s there, you’re guilty.

Guess what? It’s not true. As the chart on the right shows, conviction rates for juries in federal cases have risen from 60% to 85% in the past half century, while conviction rates in bench trials before a judge have declined from 90% to about 50%. But why? Could the type of crime involved ? violent, property, drug, etc. ? explain the disparity? Leipold says no. Is it because guilty defendants tend to pick jury trials while innocent ones prefer judges? Maybe, but then why the substantial change over time?

Leipold will be blogging about this all week, and his full paper is here. I’m linking to it just in case any of my readers get in trouble with a federal rap and need to decide what kind of trial they want. Apparently the answer is: a bench trial. And I’ll bet it’s quicker and cheaper too. I hope Rush Limbaugh knows about this.