Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Criminal Justice

Content Description

1 online resource (ix, 212 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Alissa Pollitz Worden

Committee Members

James Acker, Dana Peterson


Adjudication, Court Organization, Courtnography, Local Legal Culture, Plea Bargain, Plea Negotiation, Plea bargaining, Pleas (Criminal procedure), Court proceedings

Subject Categories



The reality is that “criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials,” as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in Lafler v. Cooper (2012). Despite this heavy reliance on plea bargaining in the U.S. criminal justice system, the nature of plea bargain decisions remains elusive. Although there has been influential and important research in which defendants and court actors were interviewed about the plea decision process, this research was mostly conducted 40 to 50 years ago about a different court system than the one that exists today; a nation of courts that rely even more on plea bargaining than it did when that research was conducted. Since then, much about courts and the process and prevalence of plea bargaining has changed. This project begins to fill this gap by investigating court processes and how defendants as compared with court actors perceive and understand the choices and imperatives with which they are faced as they navigate the legal system.

Included in

Criminology Commons