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Most Punished for Exercising Right to Jury Trial


In 89% of the estimated 583,000 felony convictions in state courts during 1986, the defendant pleaded guilty instead of standing trial before a judge or jury, the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics said on February 25th. The Bureau said that a jury convicted 8% and a judge convicted 3% following a bench trial.

Larceny convictions had the highest percentage of guilty pleas (92%) while murder had the lowest (58%). Some of the conclusions of the report verified what most prisoners already know:

An estimated 71% of the felons convicted by a jury received a prison sentence, compared to 50% of those convicted by a judge and 44% of those who pleaded guilty.

Prison sentences were on the average twice as long for felons convicted by a jury (159 months) as for felons who pleaded guilty (72 months). The average sentence for a felon convicted by a judge at a bench trial was 103 months.

An estimated 47% of the people convicted by a jury of manslaughter or murder were sentenced to life in prison or to death, compared to 12% tried by a judge and 15% of the guilty pleas.

The Report, "Felony Case Processing in State Courts, 1986" (NCJ-121753), may be obtained from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, Box 6000, Rockville, MD 20850.

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