Maricopa County, Az., prosecutor Andrew Thomas boasts a better-than-90 percent conviction rate. Critics say his office is losing more trials every year. They’re both right, says the Arizona Republic. Last year, 93 percent of about 40,000 criminal cases filed ended in conviction. Only 2.3 percent went to trial; the rest ended in plea agreements. The number of not-guilty verdicts by trial juries, or acquittals, has been growing, though not to the extent critics claim. Thomas’ office saw a rise in acquittals from 19.7 percent in 2006 to 21.5 percent in 2007.
A judge’s study suggests that so far this year, 23 percent of criminal trials ended in acquittal. The judge also found that more than 70 cases this year were pleaded out after trial started. Numbers gathered by other agencies show the same slow creep: court data suggests an increase from 16 percent to 18.5 percent in acquittals between 2006 and 2008. The Arizona Supreme Court charts the increase from 17.3 percent in 2004 to 20 percent in 2008. And the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office boasts a striking rise in its trial wins, from 14 percent in 2006 to 25 percent in fiscal 2008, which ended June 30. Tim Nelson, who is running against Thomas in the November election, has hitched that bandwagon to his campaign claims that Thomas’ tenure in office has been marred by incompetence and inefficiency. Nelson has said that Thomas is “either falsely charging or falsely prosecuting.”