Convictions As Guilt

51 Pages Posted: 24 May 2019 Last revised: 2 Dec 2020

Date Written: May 17, 2020


A curious tension exists in scholarly discourse about the criminal legal system. On the one hand, a copious body of work exposes a variety of facets of the system that jeopardize the reliability of convictions. These include factors whose influence is pervasive: the predominance of plea bargaining, for example, and the subordination of the defense. On the other hand, scholars often discuss people who have criminal convictions in a way that appears to assume crime commission. This apparent assumption obscures crucial failings of the system, muddies the role of academia, and, given the unequal distribution of criminal convictions, risks compounding race- and class-based stereotypes of criminality. From careful examination of this phenomenon and its possible explanations, reform proposals emerge.

Keywords: wrongful convictions, plea bargaining, ineffective assistance, defense counsel, innocence, guilt

JEL Classification: K14, K41

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Anna, Convictions As Guilt (May 17, 2020). 88 Fordham L. Rev. 2501 (2020), Available at SSRN:

Anna Roberts (Contact Author)

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

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