Guilt Shall Not Escape or Innocence Suffer? The Limits of Plea Bargaining When Defendant Guilt is Uncertain
Posted: 16 Jun 2008
Date Written: Fall 2007
This article examines optimal prosecutor behavior with respect to plea bargaining when defendant guilt is uncertain. I show that when jury beliefs and behavior are determined endogenously in equilibrium along with defendant and prosecutor behavior, plea bargaining can play only a limited role in managing society's conflicting desires to maximize punishment of the guilty and minimize punishment of the falsely accused. In particular, while it can be optimal for prosecutors to use plea bargaining to induce a large fraction of guilty defendants to voluntarily sort themselves from the innocent, such sorting must come at the cost of imposing relatively short sentences on such guilty defendants who accept plea bargains.
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