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Notable Recent Publications - January, 2022

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

Journal Articles

Heather Pruss, M. Sandys & S. M. Walsh, “Listen, Hear my Side, Back Me up”: What Clients Want from Public Defenders. Justice System Journal.

The current study was designed to understand what persons represented by public defenders want from their attorney and how they hope or aspire to interact with their attorney. The results of a thematic analysis of qualitative responses to those inquiries, from 120 people represented by a rural public defender agency, are presented in this article. Though extant literature in this area is scant, the findings here largely echo those prior works: participants articulated a desire for attorneys who effectively communicate, thoroughly investigate, and zealously advocate for them. The data here add nuance, however, to client conceptualizations of those distinct duties, and how clients report they might behave differently with their ideal attorney. Findings also highlight clients’ pronounced “resignation” (Casper 1970) related to systemic deficiencies in public defense and criminal justice systems more broadly, particularly following case disposition—despite overall satisfaction with their individual attorneys. We conclude by discussing implications for practicing attorneys and possible areas of future research.

Christopher M. Campbell & Kelsey S. Henderson, Bridging the Gap between Clients and Public Defenders: Introducing a Structured Shadow Method to Examine Attorney Communication. Justice System Journal.

A growing body of scholarship argues that representing clients in an effective and quality manner should be a critical goal for public defenders, emphasizing the need to be client-centered. Beyond this call, recent research emphasizes that client-centered approaches hinge on good communication as it can contribute to a more effective attorney–client relationship. However, to identify and improve communication and client-centered relationships, major obstacles must be overcome which involve conceptualizing and operationalizing quality representation and communication. In this article, we introduce a two-phase, structured shadowing method as a way to overcome these obstacles. Phase I consists of a survey of public defenders that captures attorneys’ perspectives of factors important in developing and maintaining good communication with clients. The second phase involves an exploratory method of shadowing attorneys in meetings with their clients, and administering a survey of clients to assess the importance of these factors from their vantage point and their overall perception of communication with their attorney. Additionally, we demonstrate how this method can be deployed to aid in understanding and improving attorney–client communication from both the attorneys’ and clients’ perspectives. We conclude the article with a discussion of how this method can help to progress research and practice related to quality representation, and as appendices we provide the tools used to demonstrate the approach.

Lening Zhang & Ming Hu, Prosecutors’ and Defense Lawyers’ Views on the Challenges to a New Trial Waiver System in China. Asian Journal of Criminology.

Recently, Chinese government implemented and tested a trial waiver system in 18 large cities during 2016–2018. Using data collected from surveys of prosecutors and defense lawyers in one of the cities, the present study examines the main challenges in the implementation by comparing prosecutor and defense lawyer views. The main issues examined include the legal scope of trial waivers, the lawyer and victim roles in trial waivers, and the risk of corruption and power abuse. The findings indicate that lawyer respondents significantly differed from prosecutor respondents in their views on the issues. Defense lawyers were more likely to adopt a liberal stance and took a critical attitude toward the issues than prosecutors were. Their characteristic responses may well reside in their legal statuses and related interests in the Chinese legal context.


[From the website:] "[I]ndividuals with ASD are more likely to be the victim of crime. However, there is ... a small subset of individuals with ASD who do offend... Chapters focus on arson or fire-setting; cybercrime; ... sexual offending; violent crime; stalking; terroristic behaviour...; bestiality... and also extreme violence.... [The book] outlines the ways in which a defendant with ASD may...exhibit behaviour which could be misinterpreted and perceived negatively leading to an unfair trial. Lastly, it discusses the need to identify the impact that ASD can have on the capacity to form the requisite criminal intent.... This book is ideal for criminal defense lawyers...."


The Rocky Points of Automation, The Texas Criminal Defense Podcast (hosted by Andrew Decker and Andrew Herreth)

[From the website:] "Defenders, when you’re bogged down by the rote and mundane aspects of our job, have you ever yearned for an easier, dare I say, automatic way to run your business? Well, the Andrews have the answer for you…Actually, our guest, Rocky Ramirez has the answer for you: automation! Take a listen and learn how you can serve your clients better, and run your practice much more efficiently."


DuHart Clarke, Sarah Elizabeth. Indigent Injustice? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Defendants’ Criminal Justice-Related Outcomes. PhD Psychology, North Carolina State.

"The goal of the study in this dissertation was to conduct a systematic literature review and meta-analysis on outcomes for defendants with public defenders, defendants with assigned counsel, and defendants with retained attorneys.... I ultimately was able to conduct meta-analyses for eight outcomes using 206 unique effect sizes across 40 studies; outcomes included were pretrial release, case dismissal, case resolved by guilty plea, case resolved by trial, acquittal, conviction, conviction severity, and sentence type.... [I]ndigent defendants were less likely to be released pretrial, have their case dismissed, and be acquitted, and were more likely to resolve their case by guilty plea, be convicted, and receive a sentence of incarceration than defendants with retained counsel.... [D]efendants with public defenders were more likely to resolve their case by guilty plea and were less likely to be convicted than defendants with assigned counsel. These results suggest that disadvantages indigent defendants experience in criminal justice-related outcomes are likely the result of systemic and individual biases rather than the result of ineffective defense counsel. Additionally, all analyses showed considerable heterogeneity in effect sizes, with effect sizes often varying across geographic regions in which studies were conducted. The variance in effect sizes by geographic region highlights the need for evidence-based standards for indigent defense systems and judicial decision-making across jurisdictions. 

Allen, Matthew Wade. Obstacles to Criminal Justice Reform. PhD criminal justice, University of Southern Mississippi.  

[Data from this dissertation included interviews with defenders. Abstract follows:] "Mass incarceration or overincarceration has gained significant attention over the last two decades, and criminal justice reform seeks to address it. This study uses constructivist grounded theory to examine the implementation of criminal justice reform legislation in Mississippi.... The purpose of this dissertation was to build a set of theories that identify and explain obstacles to the implementation of criminal justice reform. The researcher applied Charmaz’s (2014) constructivist grounded theory to do so, and the result was seven theories....: 1) failure to convince, (2) failure to hit targets, (3) failure to exercise fidelity to statutory language, (4) failure to make data accessible, (5) failure to reinvest, (6) failure to make programs affordable, and (7) failure to address pre-trial problems. Failure to exercise fidelity to statutory language was identified as the one theory that best explained, overall, blockades to implementation in Mississippi. These theories should be transferrable to other jurisdictions.