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Citizen Oversight and the Electoral Incentives of Criminal Prosecutors
Sanford C. Gordon and Gregory A. Huber
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 46, No. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 334-351
Published by: Midwest Political Science Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088380
Page Count: 18
You can always find the topics here!Topics: Prosecuting attorneys, Defendants, Trials, Guilty verdicts, Plea bargains, Criminal justice, Voting, Criminal prosecution, Criminals, Legal evidence
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Popular wisdom suggests that only by securing convictions can elected prosecutors cultivate the perception that they are tough on crime. This article considers why voters might use conviction rates to evaluate prosecutors and whether justice is subverted as a consequence. Citizens lack information about individual cases and prosecutor behavior. We model voter oversight of prosecutors in light of these difficulties. Voters use the promise of reelection given observed outputs to induce prosecutors to reduce uncertainty through investigation and subsequently to punish the guilty and free the innocent. The model demonstrates that an optimal voter strategy is always to reelect prosecutors who obtain convictions. Most importantly, even voters who most fear wrongful convictions should reward success at trial. Voter attitudes and beliefs instead influence rewards for cases concluded out of court, including plea bargains. Finally, we derive sanctions necessary to prevent prosecutors from suppressing evidence when doing so is politically tempting.
American Journal of Political Science © 2002 Midwest Political Science Association