"Reject the Offer": the Asymmetric Impact of Defense Attorneys' Plea Recommendations

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Criminal Justice and Behavior

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In two studies, we examined the impact of defense attorney recommendation on defendant plea decision-making. Community members and college students participated in a 2 (guilt status: innocent or guilty) × 2 (defense attorney recommendation: accept or reject offer) between-subjects factorial design study. The plea scenario was conveyed via an interactive computer simulation. In both studies (Study 1, n = 106; Study 2, n = 282), guilty participants were more likely to plead guilty than innocent participants. In Study 2, participants advised to accept the plea were more likely to plead guilty than those advised to reject the plea. Furthermore, being advised to reject the plea resulted in larger changes in willingness to accept a plea (WTAP) than being advised to accept the plea. This asymmetric effect was driven by those participants who were initially inclined to plead guilty but then received advice inconsistent with that inclination.


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