skip navigation

Justinfo Subscribe to Stay Informed

Add your conference to our Justice Events calendar


NCJRS Abstract


Subscribe to Stay Informed
Want to be in the know? JUSTINFO is a biweekly e-newsletter containing information about new publications, events, training, funding opportunities, and Web-based resources available from the NCJRS Federal sponsors. Sign up to get JUSTINFO in your inbox.

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Library collection.
To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the NCJRS Abstracts Database.

How to Obtain Documents
NCJ Number: NCJ 241158   Add to Shopping cart   Find in a Library
Title: Measuring the Effect of Defense Counsel on Homicide Case Outcomes
  Document URL: PDF 
Author(s): James M. Anderson ; Paul Heaton
Corporate Author: RAND
United States of America
Date Published: 12/2012
Page Count: 59
  Annotation: This study examined the impact of randomly assigned public defenders and court-appointed private attorneys in the outcome of criminal cases in Philadelphia.
Abstract: One in five indigent murder defendants in Philadelphia are randomly assigned representation by the Defender Association of Philadelphia while the remainder received court-appointed private attorneys. The authors exploit this random assignment to measure how defense counsel affects murder case outcomes. The primary dataset consisted of a sample of 3,412 defendants charged with murder between 1994 and 2005. Compared to appointed counsel, public defenders reduce their client's murder conviction rate by 19%, lowered the probability that their clients would receive a life sentence by 62%, and reduced overall expected time served in prison by 24%. When the authors applied methods used in past studies of public defenders that did not have the benefit of random assignment, they obtained far more modest estimated impacts, which suggests defendant sorting is an important confounder affecting past research. To explore possible explanations for this large disparity in outcomes, the authors interviewed judges, Defender Association attorneys, and attorneys who took appointments. Interviewees identified a variety of institutional factors that decreased the likelihood that appointed counsel would prepare cases as well as the Defender Association attorneys. Although the authors research is limited by the fact that it is focused on a single jurisdiction, the vast difference in outcomes for defendants assigned different counsel types raises important questions about the adequacy and fairness of the criminal justice system and additional research on the effect of counsel from other jurisdictions is required.
Main Term(s): Defense counsel effectiveness
Index Term(s): Defense services ; Defense counsel ; Court appointed counsel ; Defense preparation ; Public defenders ; Attorneys ; Case processing ; NIJ final report
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
US Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
United States of America
Grant Number: 2009-IJ-CX-0013
Sale Source: NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Country: United States of America
Language: English
  To cite this abstract, use the following link:

* A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's web site is provided.