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Plea Bargaining and Prosecutorial Discretion

Reinganum, Jennifer F. (1986) Plea Bargaining and Prosecutorial Discretion. Social Science Working Paper, 616. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

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A model of plea bargaining with asymmetric information is presented. The prosecutor's private information consists of the strength of the case, while the defendant's private information is his or her own guilt or innocence. A sequential equilibrium is computed, in which a fraction of cases are dismissed because they are too likely to involve an innocent defendant; in the remaining cases, the prosecutor's offer of a sentence in exchange for a plea of guilty signals the strength of the case. I then ask whether the prosecutor (and society) might be better off if constrained to make the same offer to all defendants, regardless of the strength of the case. It is shown that, depending upon other features of the criminal justice system and upon the preferences of society, either of these regimes may be preferred to the other. In particular, it is possible that unlimited discretion is disadvantageous for the prosecution (since it carries with it the requirement of sequential rationality).

Item Type:Report or Paper (Discussion Paper)
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Additional Information:I would like to thank Kim Border and participants in the Caltech Theory Workshop for helpful comments. The financial support of the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Graduate School of Business of the University of Chicago are gratefully acknowledged. Published as Reinganum, Jennifer F. "Plea bargaining and prosecutorial discretion." The American Economic Review (1988): 713-728.
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Alfred P. Sloan FoundationUNSPECIFIED
University of Chicago Graduate School of BusinessUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Defendants, Trials, Prosecuting attorneys, Guilty verdicts, Plea bargains, Criminal prosecution, Guilt, Expected utility, Criminal justice, Litigation
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:616
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170912-150759711
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:81384
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:15 Sep 2017 18:44
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:42

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