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Notable Recent Publications, September 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


Blount-Hill, Kwan Lamar. Inclusive Criminology. Joint presentation by the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center and IDRA.


Alex Cholas-Wood, Madison Coots, Joe Nudell, Julia Nyarko, Emma Brunskill, Todd Rogers & Sharad Goel, Automated Reminders Reduce Incarceration for Missed Court Dates: Evidence from a Text Message Experiment.

Millions of Americans must attend mandatory court dates every year. To boost appearance rates, jurisdictions nationwide are increasingly turning to automated reminders, but previous research offers mixed evidence on their effectiveness. In partnership with the Santa Clara County Public Defender Office, we randomly assigned 5,206 public defender clients to either receive automated text message reminders (treatment) or not receive reminders (control). We found the reminders reduced warrants issued for missed court dates by approximately 20%, with 12.3% of clients in the control condition issued a warrant compared to 9.9% of clients in the treatment condition. We further found that incarceration from missed court dates dropped by a similar amount, from 5.7% in the control condition to 4.4% in the treatment condition. Our results illustrate the promise of automated reminders to reduce the negative consequences of missing court.

Emily Denne, Suzanne St. George, and Stacia N. Stolzenberg, Developmental Considerations in How Defense Attorneys Employ Child Sexual Abuse and Rape Myths When Questioning Alleged Victims of Child Sexual Abuse. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Myths and misconceptions surrounding the nature of sexual assault play a role in shaping the perceptions of victims as credible and perpetrators as culpable. Defense attorneys often capitalize on myths in court as an element of their defense strategies... [W]e examine 6,384 lines of questioning across 134 criminal trials of C[hild] S[exual] A[buse] to assess whether defense attorneys employ developmentally sensitive strategies when asking children questions that draw upon myths about sexual violence.... [T]he probability that a child would receive a rape myth-consistent line of questioning, increased with a child’s age. This work suggests that attorneys are, at times, strategic in their use of myths and employ these adult rape myths in ways that are plausible, purposeful, and likely impactful. The strategic use of these questions may acknowledge young children’s limited development but may place too great a demand on older children’s developmental capacities. Prosecutors should be prepared to counterquestion these myths in redirect examination.

Caitlin Nash, Rachel Dioso-Villa and Louise Porter, Efficiency Over Accuracy?: Exploring Front-Line Practitioners' Experiences and Opinions on the "Guilty Plea System". Social and Legal Studies.

While most criminal cases are resolved by a guilty plea, little empirical research has examined guilty plea wrongful convictions. This study explored this issue through semistructured interviews with 27 legal professionals in Queensland, Australia (n=16 defense lawyers; n =7 prosecutors; n=4 magistrates). Driven by a systems and organizational perspective, we conducted a thematic analysis exploring the structural and organizational features that may systematically contribute to erroneous guilty plea convictions. We found an overarching emphasis on efficiency and pressure to quickly resolve cases, coupled with practical constraints impeding legal professionals from ensuring guilty pleas are appropriate and accurate. There was also a general acceptance of false guilty pleas through the justification of “choice,” legitimized by the authoritative precedent set by Meissner v R (1995). The findings indicate the routine nature of erroneous guilty plea convictions and raise important implications regarding the current validity of a guilty plea, as they do not always reflect actual guilt.


Duren Banks, Lynn Langton, Madison Fann, Michael G. Planty, Michael J. D. Vermeer, Brian A. Jackson, Dulani Woods, Indigent Defense Environmental Scan: Identifying Research Needs to Support Fair and Equitable Indigent Defense in the United States.

The systems that provide counsel for indigent adult and juvenile defendants in the United States vary considerably across states, localities, and judicial jurisdictions. In addition to the challenges associated with the myriad systems for providing indigent defense, there are other inherent challenges to providing effective defense counsel. These challenges include a lack of sufficient resources in general, access to investigators and other support staff, workload standards and other standards to support effective representation, strategies to support the recruitment and retention of quality counsel dedicated to indigent defense, and specialized training and other needs related to the provision of public defense with certain clients or cases. On behalf of the National Institute of Justice, RTI International and RAND Corporation researchers conducted an environmental scan to develop a set of information gaps or research priorities that, if addressed, could advance knowledge around effective indigent defense strategies. In the scan, the researchers (1) explored the literature around the needs of the indigent defense field, (2) obtained input from leading practitioners through individual interviews, group discussion, and interactive feedback, and (3) reviewed the priorities of federal and private research and practitioner organizations.