Cooperation is at the heart of most complex federal criminal cases, with profound ramifications for who can be brought to justice and for the fate of those who decide to cooperate. But despite the significance of cooperation, scholars have yet to explore exactly how individuals confronted with the decision whether to pursue cooperation with prosecutors make that choice. This Article—the first empirical study of the defense experience of cooperation—begins to address that gap. The Article reports the results of a survey completed by 146 criminal defense attorneys in three federal districts: the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of Virginia, and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Our study provides an entirely new and enriching perspective on the cooperation decision, building on prior theories from the cooperation and plea-bargaining literature, and providing for a more nuanced understanding of cooperation and its motivations. In several closed- and open-ended responses, attorneys shared their opinions—at times remarkably consistent, at times strikingly and informatively different—about cooperation practices in their respective districts. The results of this study can be used to further explore the theoretical foundations of cooperation and plea bargaining and can be used to build experimental studies to test causal relationships that are otherwise nearly impossible to determine.
Jessica A. Roth, Anna D. Vaynman, and Steven D. Penrod,
Why Criminal Defendants Cooperate: The Defense Attorney's Perspective,
Nw. U. L. Rev.