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HomeAcademicsBelmont Law Professor Lucian Dervan Launches Plea Bargain Institute  

Belmont Law Professor Lucian Dervan Launches Plea Bargain Institute  

College of Law Students Involved as Research Assistants for Intitative

Belmont College of Law Professor Lucian Dervan in partnership with Fair Trials, launched the Plea Bargaining Institute (PBI) this week. The institute will create an environment for sharing knowledge and research and for collaboration related to reforming global plea-bargaining practices. 

“We now know more about how plea bargaining operates, how defendants make decisions and how coercive incentives can lead even the innocent to plead guilty,” Dervan said.  “At the same time, we’ve seen more reform efforts, more litigation and more advocacy in the plea-bargaining space. What was needed, however, was an entity to help bring the academic, practitioner and advocate worlds together. PBI will fill this need and create a global intellectual home for this important work. As a result, advocates will have better access to important research findings related to their work and academics will have access to those in the field to help identify where future research should be focused.”  

Research indicates that plea bargain incentives often persuade innocent defendants to plead guilty. Defendants often agree for lesser sentences to avoid lengthy court trials and the imposition of much higher sentences for those who exercise their right to proceed to trial. 

This semester, research assistants in Belmont’s College of Law Katie Ray Murray, Andrew Daffron and Alex Redmond worked on creating search methodologies and began the process of gathering and analyzing research and case law for annual reports the Institue will publish yearly, with the first reports scheduled for released in late 2023.  

“Working on this project has contributed to my education at the College of Law by allowing me to refine my legal research skills,” Redmond said. “This research has also provided me with a more meaningful understanding of the topics we cover in class, which drives me to work even harder so that the Institute may reach as many people as possible.” 

The Institute’s first report will include the following information and statistics:

  • In the US, 95% or more of criminal cases are resolved through a plea of guilty.  
  • Globally, the phenomenon of plea bargaining is growing more prevalent. 
  • 21% of the cases entered in the National Registry of Exonerations in 2021 involved false pleas of guilty. 

Another of PBI’s initiatives will be hosting an annual symposium at Belmont.  

“The first symposium will occur in 2023 and bring together leaders in the academic, practitioner, and advocacy fields,” Dervan said. “At the symposium, we plan to both share important research and case law developments from the year and create opportunities for dialogue as we look forward to future research projects and collaborations.” 

Read more details regarding PBI from the official press release published by Fair Trials.  

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