Arbitrariness: Prevalence of Plea Bargains in Death Penalty Cases
In its recent study of Ohio's death penalty, the Associated Press found that of the 1,936 capital indictments filed statewide from 1981-2002, about 50% ended in plea bargains. Of those cases, 131 people who pleaded guilty in exchange for escaping the death penalty were charged with killing multiple victims. By contrast, 196 of the 274 people who were sentenced to death row during the same 21-year time span were convicted of killing a single victim. The AP's Ohio findings were similar to figures from other states and the federal government. In New York, plea bargains were offered in 26 of the 54 cases between 1995 and 2003, and in California between 1977 and 1989, nearly 47% of the 2,866 capital cases were resolved without a trial, almost all because of plea bargains. At the federal level, 33% of death penalty cases have ended in plea bargains since 1998.
(Associated Press, June 4, 2005). See Arbitrariness. See also the full Ohio AP Study series:
Andrew Welsh-Huggins, "Death Penalty Unequal," Associated Press, May 7, 2005.
Kate Roberts, "Capital Cases Hard for Smaller Counties," Associated Press, May 8, 2005
John Seewer, "Two Killers; One Spared," Associated Press, May 9, 2005.