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Notable Recent Publications - February, 2023

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  

IDRA webinar

Marea Beeman: Research to support elimination of public defense fees. IDRA webinar, January 13, 2023.


Jon B. Gould & Pamela R. Metzger, Transforming Criminal Justice: An Evidence-Based Agenda for Reform, NYU Press.

Note especially the following chapters:

  • Raj Jayadev and Janet Moore, "Participatory Defense as an Abolitionist Strategy."
  • Kelly Orians and Troy Rhodes, "Community-Based Reentry: Breaking the Cycle of Reincarceration"
  • Pamela R. Metzger, "Rural Criminal Justice Reform"
  • Shawn Armbrust, "Exonerating the Innocent: It Takes a Village and a New Culture"
  • James Doyle and Maureen Q. McGough, "Learning from Sentinel Events
Ed Johnston, The Role of the Defense Lawyer, Rowman Littlefield.

[From the website:] This book explores how lawyers view their own individual role in the context of the changed obligations introduced by the CPIA 1996 and the CrimPR, looking at the defense lawyer as part of a system, rather than as part of a relationship. Through a theoretical lens, Ed Johnston provides a wider perspective on the changing nature of criminal justice and the place of a key actor within it to draw conclusions regarding the role of the defense lawyer in the modern era.


Rachel Bowman, Daniela Oramas Mora, Ojmarrh Mitchell, and Cassia Spohn, Gender in the Courtroom Workgroup: Understanding the Relationship Between the Composition of Workgroups and the Gender Gap in Punishment. Criminal Justice and Behavior. 

For decades, research has revealed a gender disparity in criminal case outcomes.... We find that the gender diversity of the workgroup does not explain variations in court outcomes, nor does it explain the presence of gender disparities we observed in all but one of our case outcomes. As such, male protectionism is insufficient to explain the more lenient treatment of women in Florida’s criminal courts. 

Krisda Chaemsaithong, Speech Comments and Intertextuality: Evidence from Courtroom Discourse. Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics.

...Attending to the opening speech event of American criminal trials, this study identifies the forms and functions of common speech comments and explicates the ways in which these comments provide different contextualization cues about how a statement (and other relevant intertextual aspects) should be processed and understood. The findings reveal five common categories of speech comments, and these comments become instrumental for speech presenters to achieve the communicative goals of persuasion in this setting. These speech comments function to mediate both the propositional content of the opening statement as well as negotiate the interpersonal relationship between the presenter and the audience. 

Allison P. Harris & Maya Sen, How Judges' Professional Experience Impacts Case Outcomes:An Examination of Public Defenders and Criminal Sentencing. 

How do judges' previous professional experiences affect case outcomes? ...[W]e find that defendants with charges assigned to a former public defender are, on average, less likely to be incarcerated. In some cases, their sentences are also shorter, which we show is partially attributable to former defenders being less likely to give out extremely long sentences. The fi ndings make two key contributions. First, they contribute to growing evidence of disparities in the criminal legal system, particularly those associated with judge characteristics. Second, the fi ndings showcase the potential impact of judges' previous professional experience (as opposed to demographic characteristics) on decision-making. Both illustrate a new strategy in how political actors can influence policy through judicial selection on the basis of professional experience.

Kelsey S. Henderson and Reveka V. Shteynberg, Perceptions about Court-Appointed and Privately-Retained Defense Attorney Representation: (How) Do They Differ? Criminology, Criminal Justice, Law & Society. 

...In our survey, we re-visit [negative] perceptions [of indigent defense attorneys] and include an exploratory experimental test in which we varied attorney resumes by attorney type.... [P]articipants had more positive attitudes of privately-retained attorneys.... In the experimental test, there were no differences in attorney ratings between participants “represented” by a public defender and those “represented” by a private defense attorney; rather, it was when asked to compare types of attorneys did these attitudes diverge.... [T]here is now an increasing awareness of the systemic constraints that court-appointed attorneys face, as well as an appreciation for the work they do for indigent and under-served populations and society. 

Fernanda Antunes Marques Junqueira Flavio da Costa Higa Benjamin H. Barton, Comparative Rights to Counsel and Access to Justice: The American and Brazilian Approaches and Realities. 11/1, Penn State Journal of Law & International Affairs.

...Brazil is far ahead of the U.S. in terms of its constitutional and legal guarantees, especially when considering the right to civil counsel. Yet, Brazil suffers from a brutal lack of funding and governmental support. The U.S., by contrast, has fewer guarantees but spends a great deal more on access to justice than Brazil. However, America’s funding seemingly goes for naught.... By comparing the legal structures at issue, as well as lived experiences, we can see that legal guarantees are only as robust as their funding, but that funding alone is insufficient when licensing and regulation delay assistance. The article ends on a hopeful note by comparing the legal tech space in both countries and how technology may offer a solution in countries as diverse as Brazil and the United States.

Jeffrey Lane, Fanny A. Ramirez & Desmond U. Patton, Defending against social media: structural disadvantages of social media in criminal courtfor public defenders and defendants of low socioeconomic status. Information, Communication and Society.

...[W]e articulate a clear relationship between invisible, unwanted data collection and its adverse, downstream consequences for marginalized groups by examining instances in the criminal justice field where social media data function as criminal evidence.... Drawing on casework interviews with public defenders in New York City, we illustrate the mechanisms by which low-SES criminal defendants are at a disadvantage through overbroad search warrants, asymmetrical cooperation, and prejudicial evidence. We discuss the lessons and implications of our case study for platform privacy and governance research and for the courts. 

Emily K. Pelletier. An evaluation framework for juvenile defense: A theory of change and logic model measurements. Juvenile and Family Court Journal. 

This paper presents an evaluation framework for juvenile defense. The evaluation framework establishes a theory of change, logic model categories, and potential measurements for understanding the systemic variation in juvenile defense across the US. Grounded in the US Supreme Court case affirming the due process right to defense counsel, In re Gault, the evaluation framework offers a method of studying juvenile defense to assist youth in delinquency court, defenders, policymakers, and researchers. The methodological shift to an evaluation framework asserts a refocus on the legal objectives for provision of defense counsel in delinquency court. 

Richard Rogers, Amor A. Correa, John W. Donnelly II & Eric Y. Drogin. Protecting the rights of the accused: use of Spanish-language Miranda warnings in central Florida. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology.

...Based upon 15 side-by-side comparisons of Spanish and English warnings, Spanish warnings were longer and required substantially higher reading levels. Three of five Spanish Miranda components on average required a minimum reading level at the Spanish 10th to 12th grade level. Although all original English versions, included the 5th component (Continuing Rights) in the original English, 20% inexplicably failed to do so for the Spanish translations, raising fundamental concerns regarding equal protection under the law for non-English speaking detainees.... 

Michelle M. Watson, Diversity in State Appellate Courts: Professional Experience and Scarcity of Former Public Defenders, 58/5 Criminal Law Bulletin [No online version.]

...It is concerning that there is a disproportionately low percentage of judges who are former public defenders compared to other categories of attorneys, such as prosecutors and private practitioners. This Article gives a brief overview of how state appellate judges are selected; explores why professional diversity matters; discusses the importance of public defenders, including appellate public defenders, and reasons why they should be included in state appellate judgeships; and reviews the results of a fifty-state survey of appellate judges' professional experience.


Justice Counts, Tier 1 Metrics Technical Implementation Guide for Defense. 

[From the overview:] "Justice Counts is a national initiative...that makes more timely, accurate, and accessible data on safety and justice available to policymakers, removing the burden on agency staff to respond to frequent data requests.... This Technical Implementation Guide allows agencies to preview the choices they will be asked to make during the onboarding process and anticipate and prepare for the level of detail onboarding requires." 

Metzger, P. R., Buetow, C., Meeks, K., Skiles, B., & Yu, J., Greening Criminal Legal Deserts in Rural Texas, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center.

Texas’ rural communities urgently need more prosecutors and public defense providers. Many rural prosecutor’s offices cannot recruit and retain enough staff, so the Constitution’s promise of equal justice for all remains unfulfilled. This policy brief outlines three solutions to recruit more criminal lawyers to serve rural Texans: Educational pipelines, financial incentives, and rural public defender offices. Rural Texans deserve the same constitutional protections as their urban and suburban counterparts. With strong recruitment strategies, targeted incentive programs, and new rural defender offices, Texas can green its criminal law deserts.

University of Chicago Law School Federal Criminal Justice Clinic. Freedom Denied: How the Culture of Detention Created a Federal Jailing Crisis. 

[From the website:] ...[F]ederal judges routinely violate the very bail laws that they are tasked with upholding, which drives up detention rates, jails people for poverty, and exacerbates racial disparities. Courtwatching data and first-hand accounts from judges and lawyers reveal that a culture of detention pervades federal courtrooms. Courthouse custom overrides the written law, eroding the presumption of innocence.