Thursday, August 12, 2010

The truth about conviction rates

As most of you know, here in the 12th Circuit, there is a contested race for the Solicitor's office this November. We've made our support of Ed Clements pretty clear.

Throughout the race, there has been a lot of talk about conviction rates. Specifically, by the challenger, former Assistant US Attorney Rose Mary Parham. Mrs. Parham and her supporters have repeatedly stressed her "98% conviction rate."

To John Q. Public, we're sure that seems awesome. But the truth is, prosecuting cases in the Federal Court system is a completely different enterprise than prosecuting them in State court. Anyone associated with the criminal justice system knows this. This isn't to disparage Mrs. Parham, who we are sure was a fine AUSA, but to simply point out that anyone who wishes to compare her record as a AUSA to Clements' record as a solicitor is comparing apples to oranges.

But you don't have to take our word for it. Just listen to former Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-CA). "The Duke," after serving 4 years behind bars, has himself seen the light:

"The USA has more prisoners than any other nation, including Russian & China," he writes. "The US Attorneys win 98% of their cases and if you do not plead in which 80-90% is not true they threaten your wife children etc with prison time."
Now...the Duke got it a bit wrong. The U.S. Department of Justice's 2009 statistics show that federal prosecutors won only 94.1% of their cases. But, and this right here is indicative of just how much tougher a row it is for defendants to hoe in the federal system, 96% of those convictions were guilty pleas before trial. The reality of the federal system is that the entire system is set up to hammer the hell out of any Defendant that does not cooperate thanks to the sentencing guidelines. That pretty much forces many a Defendant to cop a plea in an effort to get some help on the guidelines.

So, if you really think conviction rates are important, you need to understand them. A state solicitor cannot be compared to an AUSA. If you want to compare a solicitor's performance, you have to compare it to the other solicitor's offices in the State. In our case, the 12th Circuit Solicitor's office under Clements is at the top. That, coupled with the fairness and honesty with which our current Solicitor's office handles cases, is why we support Clements.

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