Saturday, June 02, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, June 2, 2007


NCJ 218310
Anne Morrison Piehl ; Shawn D. Bushway
Measuring and Explaining Charge Bargaining
Journal of Quantitative Criminology
Volume:23 Issue:2 Dated:June 2007 Pages:105 to 125

This study compared the relative amount of charge bargaining (plea bargaining) in the counties of two States (Washington State and Maryland) and its impact on sentencing under two different sentencing guideline systems (voluntary guidelines and presumptive guidelines). The study found that charge bargaining played an important role in determining sentencing outcomes. The findings also showed that measuring the difference in months of prison time determined by the charge bargain might provide a very different estimate of the impact of the prosecutorial discretion than is found by the rate of bargaining. Although the rate of charge bargaining was higher in the voluntary guidelines State (Maryland), its impact on sentences was greater in the presumptive guidelines State (Washington), as predicted. The finding of differential charge bargaining in these two jurisdictions suggests caution when comparing the results of studies of sentencing disparity across types of jurisdictions, since the conviction information in more structured systems may represent systematic movement from the arraignment charge. The charge-bargaining comparison across the two jurisdictions used data from the publicly available State Court Processing Statistics. Data were from all felony cases brought in May 1998 in the 75 largest U.S. counties. Data pertain to case processing from filing to disposition or for processing stages in 1 year, whichever occurs first. 5 tables and 49 references

NCJ 218314
Andrew Haesler SC
DNA in Court
Judicial Review
Volume:8 Issue:1 Dated:September 2006 Pages:121 to 144

This paper discusses issues related to the nature of DNA evidence and its strengths and weaknesses in proving that a defendant committed the crime charged. The author concludes that because of the many variables that can compromise the reliability of DNA evidence and the fallibility of conclusions drawn from it, DNA evidence alone cannot meet the high standard of certainty required for a conviction. The author advises that, like all evidence, DNA evidence must be carefully scrutinized and be viewed as one piece of evidence that requires other evidence of guilt to meet the burden of proof for a guilty verdict. The author first discusses DNA science and technology, with attention to the information it is capable of bringing as evidence in a criminal case. A second issue discussed pertains to the statistics associated with the probability that a particular DNA sample came from a suspect/defendant. A third issue addressed involves DNA reports. The author advises that the DNA report simply states the results of the DNA analysis. It does not describe the process by which the result was obtained. To make DNA admissible as evidence, the chain of custody and handling of the exhibit from which the DNA was taken and analyzed must be established as reliable and free of contamination and error. A discussion of problems with the science and technology involved in DNA analysis focuses on partial matches, weak readings, mixtures of DNA from more than one contributor, and contamination. Bias in the lab is also discussed, with attention to inadvertent or secondary transfer. Problems with DNA statistics are identified, followed by the author's answer to the question regarding whether DNA evidence is sufficiently reliable to be the only evidence of guilt presented against a defendant. 71 notes

NCJ 218322
Peggy Fulton Hora
Trading One Drug for Another? What Drug Treatment Court Professionals Need To Learn About Opioid Replacement Therapy
Journal of Maintenance in the Addictions
Volume:4 Issue:2 Dated:2004 Pages:71 to 76

This paper reviews the historical antagonism between drug treatment courts (DTCs) and opioid treatment professionals who support medically assisted treatment (MAT) with methadone, and it identifies recent changes that make a new partnership possible. Although there is still resistance among DTC judges regarding the use of methadone in treating opiate addiction, judges are trained to look at evidence and make decisions according to the weight of the evidence. A presentation of empirical evidence that supports the use of methadone in treating opiate addiction should be well received by DTC judges. The findings of studies that show a reduction in arrests and other misconduct by MAT patients supports the argument that methadone use with opiate addicts increases public safety. Problems that do exist, such as clinic location, relapse rates, unauthorized use of methadone, and others should be acknowledged and addressed. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), which was founded in 1994, is an outreach and national membership organization composed of DTC professionals. Through conferences, training institutes, and publications, NADCP and its sister organization, National Drug Court Institute, are the primary source of information in the field. It has only been in the last few years that any training was done on the use of methadone in the treatment of opiate addiction. In 2003, opioid replacement therapy was, for the first time, the subject of a plenary session in the Adult Drug Court training. NADCP's new initiative is to travel across the United States and educate community leaders and drug court professionals about methadone and its effectiveness. 13 notes

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