CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

McCannon & Porreca on Counsel in 19th Century London

Bryan C. McCannon and Zachary Porreca (West Virginia University - College of Business & Economics and West Virginia University, College of Business & Economics, Department of Economics, Students) have posted The Right to Counsel: Criminal Prosecution in 19th Century London on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Exploiting a novel data set of criminal trials in 19th century London, we evaluate the impact of an accused’s right to counsel on convictions. While lower-level crimes had an established history of professional representation prior to 1836, individuals accused of committing a felony did not, even though the prosecution was conducted by professional attorneys. The Prisoners’ Counsel At of 1836 remedied this and first introduced the right to counsel in common law systems. Using a difference-in-difference estimation strategy we identify the causal effect of defense counsel. We find the surprising result that the professionalization of the courtroom lead to an increase in the conviction rate, which we interpret as a consequence of jurors feeling that the trial became fairer. We go further and employ a topic modeling approach to the text of the transcripts to provide suggestive evidence on how the trials changed when defense counsel was fully introduced.

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