Jury Trials and Plea Bargaining

Jury Trials and Plea Bargaining : A True History

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This book is a study of the social transformation of criminal justice, its institutions, its method of case disposition and the source of its legitimacy. Focused upon the apprehension, investigation and adjudication of indicted cases in New York City's main trial tribunal in the nineteenth century - the Court of General Sessions - it traces the historical underpinnings of a lawyering culture which, in the first half of the nineteenth century, celebrated trial by jury as the fairest and most reliable method of case disposition and then at the middle of the century dramatically gave birth to plea bargaining, which thereafter became the dominant method of case disposition in the United States. The book demonstrates that the nature of criminal prosecutions in everyday indicted cases was transformed, from disputes between private parties resolved through a public determination of the facts and law to a private determination of the issues between the state and the individual, marked by greater police involvement in the processing of defendants and public prosecutorial discretion.
As this occurred, the structural purpose of criminal courts changed - from individual to aggregate justice - as did the method and manner of their dispositions - from trials to guilty pleas. Contemporaneously, a new criminology emerged, with its origins in European jurisprudence, which was to transform the way in which crime was viewed as a social and political problem. The book, therefore, sheds light on the relationship of the method of case disposition to the means of securing social control of an underclass, in the context of the legitimation of a new social order in which the local state sought to define groups of people as well as actual offending in criminogenic terms. "At a moment when France is poised to adopt plea bargaining, McConville and Mirsky offer the best historical account of its emergence in mid-nineteenth century America, based upon exhaustive analysis of archival data. Their interpretation of the reasons for the dramatic shift from jury trials to negotiated justice offers no comfort for contemporary apologists of plea bargaining as more "professional."
The combination of new data and critical reflection on accepted theories make this essential reading for anyone interested in criminal justice policy." Rick Abel, Connell Professor of Law, UCLA Law School "A fascinating account which traces the origins of plea-bargaining in the politicisation of criminal justice, linking developments in day-to-day practices of the criminal process with macro-changes in political economy, notably the structures of local governance. This is a classic socio-legal study and should be read by anyone interested in criminology, criminal justice, modern history or social theory". Nicola Lacey, Professor of Criminal Law and Legal Theory, London School of Economics.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 390 pages
  • 156 x 234 x 30mm | 706g
  • Hart Publishing
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1, black & white illustrations
  • 184113516X
  • 9781841135168
  • 2,056,626

Review quote

The stories they tell, in munificent detail, take us to an exciting landscape of the life of the City in the making, unmaking, and remaking of criminal justice systems...the authors of this splendid treatise pursue with single-minded determination the varieties of 'historical sociology' perspectives that may help to explain 'the dramatic transformation' in two periods of American legal history (1800-45/1850-65) that mark the transition from 'jury trials to guilty plea'.. Upendra Baxi The King's College Law Journal, Vol 17, Issue 1 2006 ...supplies a fascinating history and a solid argument for a multifaceted explanation of the rise of plea-bargaining in the nineteenth century...Jury Trials underscores the value of historic data and bottom-up, contextualized research. (It is also interesting reading for anyone who researches contemporary issues of evidence and procedure..)...the data and conclusions of Jury Trials can inform critical analysis of jury trials and plea-bargaining in various jurisdictions today. Marny Requa British Journal of Criminology, Vol 46. No 5 Sept 2006 In their empirical analysis, Mike McConville and Chester L Mirsky retrace [jury trial and plea bargaining's] evolution from its beginning in the nineteenth century to the "post-revolutionary" period. Just like their methodology - which goes beyond a doctrinal study by basing results on solid data - their conclusions are original. Revue de Science Criminelle e de Droit Penal Compare 2007, No 4
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About Mike McConville

Mike McConville is Professor of Law at the University of Warwick. Chester L. Mirsky is an Emeritus Professor of Law at New York University.
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