Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2329452
 


 



Impeachment by Unreliable Conviction


Anna Roberts


Seattle University School of Law

October 1, 2013

55 B.C. L. Rev. 563 (2014)
Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 14-04

Abstract:     
This Article offers a new critique of Federal Rule of Evidence 609, which permits impeachment of criminal defendants by means of their prior criminal convictions. The Article draws on three aspects of the contemporary criminal justice system to show that in admitting convictions for impeachment courts are wrongly assuming that they are necessarily reliable indicators of relative culpability. First, courts assume that convictions are the product of a fair fight, despite the adversarial collapse revealed by the nature of plea-bargaining, the crisis in public defense, and the data on wrongful convictions; second, courts assume that convictions demonstrate relative culpability, despite the racial and other disparities that pervade law enforcement; third, courts assume that convictions connote moral culpability, despite the growth in prosecutions that require no culpable mental state. This Article proposes that before a conviction is used for impeachment, there should be an assessment of the extent to which it is a reliable indicator of relative culpability.

In support of its proposals, this Article draws two new sources into the impeachment context. First, in a groundbreaking sentencing opinion, Judge Nancy Gertner refused to give the prescribed weight to the defendant’s prior convictions, since she feared that they were the product of racial profiling and that she would be compounding disparities. Second, the prosecution’s ethical duty to 'do justice' militates in favor of a prosecutorial assessment of a conviction’s reliability before proffering it for impeachment. Through these kinds of judicial and prosecutorial inquiry, the law of impeachment will hew more closely to the realities of the criminal justice system, and to justice itself.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: impeachment, wrongful convictions, racial disparity, plea-bargaining, 609, public defense

JEL Classification: K14, K41

Accepted Paper Series


Download This Paper

Date posted: September 23, 2013 ; Last revised: May 21, 2014

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Anna, Impeachment by Unreliable Conviction (October 1, 2013). 55 B.C. L. Rev. 563 (2014); Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 14-04. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2329452

Contact Information

Anna Roberts (Contact Author)
Seattle University School of Law ( email )
901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 340
Downloads: 69
Download Rank: 196,026

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo2 in 0.437 seconds