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Not Guilty

Not Guilty: Are the Acquitted Innocent?

Daniel Givelber
Amy Farrell
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Not Guilty
    Book Description:

    A brilliant book that masterfully debunks the conventional wisdom that those who are charged with crimes in our criminal justice system, even when they are acquitted at trial, are almost certainly guilty. It is a data-driven tour de force. --Richard A. Leo, author of Police Interrogation and American Justice. Givelber and Farrell make a persuasive case that most jury acquittals are based on evidence not emotion, and that acquittals should be taken to mean what they say: that the defendant is Not Guilty. --Samuel Gross, co-author of A Modern Approach to Evidence: Text, Problems, Transcripts, and Cases. As scores of death row inmates are exonerated by DNA evidence and innocence commissions are set up across the country, conviction of the innocent has become a well-recognized problem. But our justice system makes both kinds of errors - we acquit the guilty and convict the innocent - and exploring the reasons why people are acquitted can help us to evaluate the efficiency and fairness of our criminal justice system. Not Guilty provides a sustained examination and analysis of the factors that lead juries to find defendants not guilty, as well as the connection between those factors and the possibility of factual innocence, examining why some criminal trials result in not guilty verdicts and what those verdicts suggest about the accuracy of our criminal process.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2534-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. 1 Introduction: Invisible Innocence
    (pp. 1-19)

    This headline is not an oxymoron. Jeanie Louise Adair, tried for the murder of her husband in 1999, was found “not guilty” by the jury. She then went to court to do what California law permitted: secure a formal judicial determination that she was factually innocent of the crime. The California Supreme Court refused her request because the prosecution had presented enough evidence that it would have been permissible for the jury to return a guilty verdict. Because a different jury, looking at the identical evidence, may have come to a different conclusion, she can never be declared innocent. Her...

  7. 2 Judge and Jury Decisions to Acquit: What We Know from Social Science Research
    (pp. 20-39)

    In October 1955, the Subcommittee on Internal Security of the Senate Judiciary Committee took a break from its normal business of searching for subversives to conduct a hearing into recordings of jury deliberations allegedly conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago. While conceding that it was an unusual topic for the subcommittee to investigate, James O. Eastland of Mississippi, chairman, explained that the hearing was justified because “anything which undermines or threatens the integrity of the jury system necessarily affects the internal security of the United States.”¹ The recordings in question, which apparently had the potential to threaten internal...

  8. 3 Screening for Innocence
    (pp. 40-66)

    We have no way of knowing the guilt or innocence of Santiago, Martin Erdmann’s client. What we do know is that if Santiago wished to achieve freedom now and worry about the consequences of a conviction later, pleading guilty made sense. The prosecutor assigned to Santiago’s case and the judge who accepted the plea could (and would) believe that their work had led to the conviction and sentencing of a guilty individual. We know Erdmann’s view: his work had “nothing to do with justice.” Assuming that Santiago was innocent (we have no way of knowing), why was pleading guilty to...

  9. 4 Understanding Why Judges and Juries Disagree about Criminal Case Outcomes: Are Jury Verdicts an Expression of Sentiment?
    (pp. 67-98)

    The case of the baker and the pizza man reflects a phenomenon that concerns observers of our criminal justice system—how can a judge and a jury look at the same evidence and arrive at radically different conclusions as to what it shows? If they do arrive at different conclusions, which one is correct? Th e judge who was certain that Fortunato and Polito both participated in the murder or the jury that acquitted Polito? And if the judge was correct, why did the appellate court overturn his verdict?

    In the United States, we have resolved this conundrum by insisting...

  10. 5 The Defense Case
    (pp. 99-119)

    Most studies of judge-jury agreement (as discussed in more detail in chapter 2) reflect the assumption implicit in Kalven and Zeisel: that judges make the correct judgments.² Yet the differences in decision making between judges and juries “tells us nothing about whether either decision maker (or group) is actually accurate; both could be wrong.”³ Both empirical and theoretical investigations suggest that juries apply “commonsense justice” as they arrive at their conclusions concerning guilt or innocence through consideration of factors beyond those that are legally relevant.⁴ Jury justice results from a process of collective deliberation conducted under the veil of the...

  11. 6 The Impact of Race on Judge and Jury Decision Making
    (pp. 120-136)

    Race permeates the discussion—private, public, and scholarly—of criminal justice issues. The news stories introducing this chapter identified the race of the defendants, jurors, and victim as important in explaining the verdicts of juries. Those disappointed in the verdict saw racial bias at work. Had the verdict come out the other way, the news coverage probably would have again emphasized race although now the story would have focused on how the jury rose above racial solidarity with the accused to return a just verdict. Regardless of how individual cases are resolved, the problem of race and the potential for...

  12. 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 137-144)

    We began with the question of whether those acquitted of crimes are innocent in fact as well as in law. Like the comedian Rodney Dangerfield, acquittals “get no respect.” They are treated (and therefore discounted) as the products of jury nullification, or the inability of the state to find or prepare important witnesses for trial, or the defendant’s chicanery in dissuading witnesses from appearing, or the jury’s failure to understand or evaluate the evidence—anything, that is, but the state’s prosecution of an innocent person. These claims cannot be disproved for the very reason that gives wing to them in...

  13. Appendix A
    (pp. 145-150)
  14. Appendix B
    (pp. 151-151)
  15. Appendix C
    (pp. 152-152)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 153-188)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-202)
  18. Index
    (pp. 203-210)
  19. About the Authors
    (pp. 211-211)