Nearly all felony convictions—about 95%—follow guilty pleas, suggesting plea offers are very attractive to defendants compared to trials. Some scholars even argue that plea bargains are too attractive and should be curtailed because they facilitate the wrongful conviction of innocents. Others contend that plea offers only benefit innocent defendants, providing an alternative to the risk of a harsher sentence at trial they may wish to avoid. Hence, even while heatedly disputing their desirability, both camps in the debate believe plea bargains commonly lead innocents to plead guilty. Professor Avishalom Tor will argue that the belief innocents routinely plead guilty is overstated. His talk will be based on field and laboratory evidence for the hitherto neglected “innocence effect,” revealing that innocents are significantly less likely to accept plea offers that appear attractive to similarly-situated guilty defendants in light of the expected sanction at trial. Professor Avishalom Tor will further explore the psychological causes of the innocence effect and examines its implications for plea bargaining.
Professor Avishalom Tor’s research focuses on the study of competition and cooperation in market settings and the legal rules and institutions that regulate them. After receiving his doctorate from Harvard Law School, Avishalom was a Visiting Research Professor at George Mason University School of Law, an Adviser and Consultant to Commissioner Harbour at the Federal Trade Commission on various matters of antitrust law and economics, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Hamburg. Before joining the law faculty, Professor Tor was a Senior Lecturer and co-director of the Forum on Law and Markets at the University of Haifa Faculty of Law. He is also the Secretary of the European Association of Law and Economics and a board member of a number of international competition law institutes.