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Notable Recent Publications - January, 2020

Notable Recent Publications features the latest empirical research and data related to indigent defense. Should you have suggestions, ideas for work that should be included, or trouble accessing any of the articles featured, please write to


Kelsey S. Henderson & Reveka V. Shteynberg, "Plea decision-making: the influence of attorney expertise, trustworthiness, and recommendation." Psychology, Crime & Law.
Attorney recommendations influence defendant plea decisions; and the degree of influence likely rests on the perceived trustworthiness and level of expertise of the attorney (factors of source credibility). We explored attorney source credibility factors and how these characteristics influence defendants’ plea decision-making. MTurk participants read a hypothetical plea scenario and were asked to imagine themselves as the defendant in a DWI/DUI case making a plea decision; in the scenario, we manipulated the defense attorney’s level of trustworthiness, expertise, and plea recommendation. There was a significant interaction between attorney recommendation and trustworthiness on defendants’ plea decisions; participants who were advised to accept the guilty plea were more likely to plead guilty when the attorney was high in trustworthiness compared to low in trustworthiness. Attorney trustworthiness did not affect plea decisions for defendants advised to reject the guilty plea. Importantly, attorney trustworthiness affected defendants’ decision to follow the attorney’s recommendation and ultimate plea decision (regardless of expertise), and attorney expertise affected defendants’ confidence in their decision (regardless of trustworthiness). Results suggest individual-level characteristics of defense attorneys affect the influence of the attorney and their recommendation, and ultimately defendants’ plea decision-making.


Matthew Menendez, Michael F. Crowley, Lauren-Brooke Elsen & Noah Atchison, The Steep Costs of Criminal Justice Fines and Fees. The Brennan Center.
[Features public defenders as interviewees, and discusses implications for defender systems. From the Executive Summary:] "[T]his first-of-its-kind analysis shows that in addition to thwarting rehabilitation and failing to improve public safety, criminal-court fees and fines also fail at efficiently raising revenue. The high costs of collection and enforcement are excluded from most assessments, meaning that actual revenues from fees and fines are far lower than what legislators expect. And because fees and fines are typically imposed without regard to a defendant’s ability to pay, jurisdictions have billions of dollars in unpaid court debt on the books that they are unlikely to ever collect. This debt hangs over the heads of defendants and grows every year. This study examines 10 counties across Texas, Florida, and New Mexico, as well as statewide data for those three states. The counties vary in their geographic, economic, political, and ethnic profiles, as well as in their practices for collecting and enforcing fees and fines."