Thursday, November 01, 2007

Crunching some federal civilian criminal numbers

I'm on a panel tomorrow, so as usual I'll subject you to part of my presentation.

What do you think is the percent of federal civilian criminal cases disposed during fiscal year 2006 in which the defendant pled guilty? Think of a number.

The correct answer is eighty-seven percent. Now apply the Goldilocks standard: was your answer too low, too high, or just right?

Interestingly, the percentage has been fairly stable over time. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts' web site has ten years of data. In fiscal year 1997, the figure was just under eighty-two percent. The figure rose gradually each year through FY02, when it hit 89.9%. Then, over the past four years, it has modulated between 86.3% and 89.9% again in FY05.

You can find the charts from which I calculated these figures here.

By playing around with the numbers, you can calculate some other interesting statistics. For example, the percentage of contested federal bench trials that resulted in acquittals in FY06: 36.5%. The percentage of contested federal jury trials that resulted in acquittals: 11%.

And the federal civilian criminal system's overall conviction rate for FY06? 90.61%

LT Marinello's new Naval Law Review article that I discuss in the post below yields one interesting statistic without a direct counterpart in the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts' data: 66% of LT Marinello's sampled cases included a pretrial agreement. Lieutenant Michael J. Marinello, Convening Authority Clemency: Is It Really an Accused's Best Chance of Relief?, 54 Naval L. Rev. 169, 198 (2007).

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