Today, more than 95% of all cases are resolved through plea and without trial. This shift is eroding the fundamental balance our judicial process is meant to strike. It cannot be attributed to a single cause and is not restricted to a particular region or case type. Reversing this trend requires judges, court administrators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, local and state governments, and the community to work together to examine and change their criminal justice infrastructure and culture.
VANISHING TRIAL RESOURCES
REPORTS AND STUDIES
- The New York State Trial Penalty: The Constitutional Right to Trial Under Attack, NACDL, March 26, 2021.
- Only 2% of federal criminal defendants go to trial, and most who do are found guilty, By John Gramlich, Pew Research, June 11, 2019.
- Trial Penalty Report: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It, NACDL, July 10 2018.
- Report: Guilty Pleas on the Rise, Criminal Trials on the Decline, The Innocence Project, August 7, 2018.
- United States Court Caseload Statistics Data Table
- Stronger Hand for Judges in the ‘Bazaar’ of Plea Deals, by Erica Goode, The New York Times, March 22, 2012.
- Dylan Walsh, Why U.S. Criminal Courts Are So Dependent on Plea Bargaining, The Atlantic (May 2, 2017).
VIDEOS, BLOGS, PODCASTS
The Vanishing Trial
On June 15, 2020, NACDL and FAMM hosted a virtual panel discussion about “The Vanishing Trial” documentary. The panelists included Sakira Cook, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Brittany K. Barnett, Buried Alive Project; Clark Neily, The Cato Institute; and Norman L. Reimer, NACDL. View the discussion below.
On June 29, 2020, New Yorkers United for Justice hosted a virtual panel discussion of the upcoming FAMM and NACDL film "The Vanishing Trial." Panelists included Robert Rose, a formerly incarcerated advocate; Susan Walsh, New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Jared Trujillo, The Legal Aid Society; and Khalil Cumberbatch, New Yorkers United for Justice. Featuring Norman Reimer, NACDL; and Molly Gill, FAMM. View the entire discussion below.
Trial Penalty Report Launch Event -- July 10, 2018
At a special event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on July 10, 2018, NACDL released The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It. The keynote speaker at the event was Hon. John Gleeson (Ret.). In addition to NACDL leadership including NACDL Immediate Past President Rick Jones, NACDL Past President Barry Pollack, and NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer, representatives from numerous leading groups in the criminal justice reform movement from across the political spectrum delivered remarks agreeing that the trial penalty in the American criminal justice system is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Those groups included the Cato Institute, Human Rights Watch, Right on Crime, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the ACLU, the Charles Koch Institute, the Innocence Project, and Fair Trials International. Pro Bono Counsel Don Salzman from the firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP also spoke, as did New York criminal defense attorney Frederick P. Hafetz. Due to conflicts, the ACLU and FAMM sent their remarks. The entire 90-minute event is available below.
Prosecutors: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
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A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence: A Trial Practice Handbook for Criminal Defense Attorneys
This Guide to Federal Evidence is the only federal evidence handbook written exclusively for criminal defense lawyers. The Guide analyzes each Federal Rule of Evidence and outlines the main evidentiary issues that confront criminal defense lawyers. It also summarizes countless defense favorable cases and provides tips on how to avoid common evidentiary pitfalls. The Guide contains multiple user-friendly flowcharts aimed at helping the criminal defense lawyer tackle evidence problems. A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence is an indispensable tool in preparing a case for trial.
Modern Digital Evidence & Technologies in Criminal Cases
Modern cases need modern defenses, and modern lawyers can't practice with an outdated playbook. This program is a contemporary training that identifies emerging technologies and digital evidence encountered in today's criminal cases and arms you with the tools necessary to combat expert witnesses, prosecutorial overreach, and an uneducated judge and jury. This comprehensive CLE program covers both general aspects of new technologies as well as practical courtroom application and legal challenges to the use of these new technologies.
Top Shelf DUI Defenses: The Law, The Science, The Techniques (2021)
If you are serious about being an effective DUI defense advocate, or if you’re considering adding DUI defenses to your portfolio, you need to know the latest scientific and legal strategies to optimize your success at trial. Learn from the best-of-the-best in the field in this unique CLE Program, updated for 2021.
Defending Modern Drug Cases (2021)
From challenging the arrest and seizure to picking a jury and cross-examining police officers, defense attorneys handling drug cases must be able to construct a defense that will increase the chances of the client getting a positive result for your client.
Effective motion practice, juror selection, and storytelling have never been more important. This seminar will introduce defense counsel to techniques that have been used at recent drug trials to rebut specific claims and overcome the emotion created in today’s criminal legal system.
John Oliver explains how prosecutors use, or in some cases misuse, their power within our criminal justice system and why it’s important to know whether or not your district attorney is a dog.