New York City Judges Are More Likely to Acquit Than Juries


The Wall Street Journal points out what it calls “a little-known fact in New York courts: Judges are more likely to acquit than juries.” From 2006 through 2010, felony defendants in New York City who opted for bench trials—in which a judge decides the case—were convicted 61% of the time, while juries convicted 67% of felony defendants, according to data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Although statistics show bench trials to be favorable for defendants, less than one in five choose to waive their right to a jury, data shows. Legal experts say a bench trial only makes sense when a jury could be swayed by emotion for the victim, overwhelmed by technical evidence or confused by complicated legal instructions. “You only need one to hang a jury,” Rachel Barkow, a professor of law at New York University, said of the calculations defense attorneys sometimes makes when weighing their clients’ chances of acquittal.

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