A Colorado prosecutor created an unusual incentive for felony prosecutors, paying bonuses if they achieve a predetermined standard for conviction rates at trial, reports the Denver Post. The threshold for an assistant district attorney to earn the average $1,100 reward: Participate in at least five trials during the year, with 70 percent of them ending in a felony conviction. Plea bargains or mistrials don’t count. District Attorney Carol Chambers, whose office handles cases in four counties, said she set up the standard to encourage her team to meet minimum requirements in line with statistics in comparable jurisdictions.
The bonus pool and the use of standards to determine who gets part of it are similar to incentive compensation used in private industries. Other Colorado district attorneys say they neither typically award bonuses nor tie performance evaluations to a conviction goal. Public defenders worry that a prosecutor just shy of the mark might be tempted to drive a harder bargain to force a case to trial to gain the bonus rather than in the interest of justice. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said he’s seen plenty of cases where hard work didn’t pay off in the jury box. “I would worry that if something is tied to a conviction rate, a deputy wouldn’t try a hard case that required a trial. We want people trying cases that need to be tried,” Morrissey said. “If they don’t win, they don’t win.” Several officials from other jurisdictions said a deputy district attorney’s job is far too complicated to boil down to a conviction rate.