Guilt Shall Not Escape or Innocence Suffer? The Limits of Plea Bargaining When Defendant Guilt is Uncertain

Posted: 16 Jun 2008

See all articles by David Bjerk

David Bjerk

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: Fall 2007

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Bjerk, David, Guilt Shall Not Escape or Innocence Suffer? The Limits of Plea Bargaining When Defendant Guilt is Uncertain (Fall 2007). American Law and Economics Review, Vol. 9, Issue 2, pp. 305-329, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1145992 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aler/ahm010

David Bjerk (Contact Author)

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance ( email )

500 E. Ninth St.
Claremont, CA 91711-6420
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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