Worst Federal Districts to Be Charged With a Crime
Judicial Business of the U.S. Courts publishes the most detailed statistical tables on the work of the federal Judiciary. This week it released its statistical analysis for the 12 month period ending September 30, 2011. A summary is here, and the full report, with tables, is here.
The summary and news accounts of the report skip some of the report's most interesting statistics on criminal cases. The chart that leapt out at me is how bail has become the exception in federal courts while pre-trial detention has become the rule. First the punishment, then the verdict.
Where's the worst place to be charged with a crime? The district most likely to deny you bail, keep you locked up for months or years awaiting trial, in either federal detention centers or dismal county jails not meant to house long-term prisoners, where you are unable to work and provide for your family, have no access to meaningful rehabilitative programs and have only limited access to your lawyer in cramped visiting rooms to prepare your defense. [More...]
The 8th Amendment provides:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed.
Nationally, out of 112,000 defendants, 66% of defendants were ordered detained without bond for the duration of the case. Only 34% were granted release on bail.
The district with the highest detention rate -- 94% -- is Arizona. Out of 21,444 people charged, 20,202 were detained. Next is New Mexico. 85.1% of 3,538 defendants were detained. In the the Western District of TX, 77.5% of 10,418 defendants were detained. Perhaps that's not surprising because they are border states with a huge number of cases filed against undocumented persons, who don't get bail because ICE lodges detainers.
But what's the excuse for the rest of these districts?
- Western Dist. of AK: 79.4% detained (out of 267 Defendants)
- Wyoming: 73.6% detained (of 356 defendants)
- Middle Dist. N. Carolina: 72.5% detained (out of 350 defendants)
- Idaho: 69.9% detained (of 302 defendants)
- Colorado: 69.4% detained (out of 559 defendants)
- Eastern Dist. of CA (Sacramento): 69.1% detained (out of 1,002 defendants)
- Eastern Dist. of WA: 69% (out of 451 defendants)
- Eastern Dist. of LA: 68.8% detained (out of 330 defendants)
- Southern Dist. of IN: 68.1% detained (out of 433 defendants)
- Western Dist. of NC: 66.9% derained (out of 638 defendants)
- Rhode Island: 66.5% detained (out of 209 defendants)
Where are you most likely to make bond? (Aside from Guam, which has the highest release rate)
- Middle District of Alabama: Only 22.6% of defendants detained
- Hawaii: Only 32.6% of defendants detained
- So. Dist. Ohio: Only 35.0 of defendants detained
- Eastern Dist. WI: Only 35.0 of defendants detained
- Northern Dist. AL: Only 35.2% of defendants detained
- Eastern District of MI: Only 36.6% of defendants detained
- Western Dist. WI: Only 36.7% of defendants detained
- Middle Dist. of LA: Only 36.8% of defendants detained
The numbers are slightly better with all immigration cases excluded.
Alice in Wonderland, Chapter 12:
Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.
‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first - verdict afterwards.’
‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’
‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.
‘I won’t!’ said Alice.
‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.
How many of detained defendants lose the will to fight and end up pleading guilty? The average length of time nationally from filing of charges through case disposition for 101,149 defendants is 15.7 months.
How many of those granted bond obtained it by agreeing to plead guilty and cooperate, after being told by the Government if they did not, it would seek a detention order. Unfortunately, there's no chart for this statistic.
It's clear not very many federal defendants exercise their right to go to trial. And those that do don't fare very well.
- Out of 101,149 defendants nationally, only 2,086 opted for a jury trial.
- Out of the 2,086 defendants who had a jury trial, there were only 241 acquittals. (Those opting for a trial by judge instead of jury fared better: 217 were convicted and 145 were acquitted.)
In Colorado, a total of 785 defendants were charged. 86 had their charges dismissed before trial. 685 out of the remaining 699 defendants pleaded guilty. All 14 of those who went to trial, including 12 who opted for a jury trial and 2 who opted for a bench trial, were convicted.
[Note: Not all the charts match. For example, in this chart, it says 20 defendants in Colorado went to trial, 18 to a jury and 2 before the judge. Since only 18 were sentenced, either two were acquitted or their verdicts were set aside after trial. Also, the total number of defendants in the trial and detention charts differ, presumably because the detenton charts do not include "dismissals, cases in which release is not possible within 90 days, transfers out, and cases that were later converted to diversion cases during the period."]
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