News Release

Special Double Issue of Federal Sentencing Reporter on “The Trial Penalty”

Washington, DC (July 10, 2019) – The Federal Sentencing Reporter, published by University of California Press, has released a double issue covering April and June 2019, edited by NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer and NACDL Second Vice President Martín Antonio Sabelli, entitled “The Tyranny of the Trial Penalty: The Consensus that Coercive Plea Practices Must End.”

The ‘trial penalty’ refers to the substantial difference between the sentence offered prior to trial versus the sentence a defendant receives after trial. This penalty is now so severe and pervasive that it has virtually eliminated the constitutional right to a trial. To avoid the penalty, accused persons must surrender many other fundamental rights which are essential to a fair justice system. With more than 97% of criminal cases being resolved by plea in a constitutional system predicated upon the Sixth Amendment right to a trial, the fact of imbalance and injustice in the system is self-evident.

As a public service, the Federal Sentencing Reporter is making the “Editors’ Observations,” as well as two articles at a time from this special issue, each for a two-week period, publicly available here, beginning this week and continuing through the beginning of the fall.

“The articles included in this special issue underscore one hopeful reality: the breadth of concern with the trial penalty’s central role in perverting the U.S. system of justice reflects unprecedented consensus,” explain Editors Reimer and Sabelli in their “Editors’ Observations” introduction. “Critics of the decline of the jury trial and the institutional coercion that is the trial penalty in action span the ideological perspective. This is not the system of justice that the architects of this democracy envisioned, nor is it the system that people deserve, especially as the nation has evolved. The country may still have a long way to go to purge racism and all forms of irrational disparity from its criminal justice system. But it has come far enough that it is long past time to tolerate a system that extracts years of a person’s freedom as the price to access fundamental rights. NACDL is determined to promote study and seek reform on the federal level and throughout the various states to minimize the tyranny of the trial penalty. This edition of the Federal Sentencing Reporter is an important step in that process.”

The insightful, well-researched pieces in this edition of the Federal Sentencing Reporter were prepared by leading national experts in the field from across the political and ideological spectrum, and include:

  • Emma Andersson & Jeffery Robinson, ACLU
  • Branden A. Bell, Assistant Federal Public Defender
  • Glinda S. Cooper, Vanessa Meterko, and Prahelika Gadtaula, The Innocence Project
  • Professor Lucian E. Dervan, Belmont University College of Law
  • Frederick P. Hafetz, Hafetz & Necheles
  • Professor Brian D. Johnson, University of Maryland
  • Rick Jones and Cornelius Cornelssen, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem
  • Marc A. Levin, Right on Crime & Texas Public Policy Foundation
  • Professor JaneAnne Murray, University of Minnesota Law School
  • Clark Neily, The Cato Institute
  • Chris Ochoa and Carlita Salazar, The Innocence Project
  • Marjorie J. Peerce and Brad Gershel, Ballard Spahr LLP
  • Mary Price, FAMM
  • Vikrant P. Reddy, Charles Koch Institute
  • Jordan Richardson, Americans for Prosperity
  • Rebecca Shaeffer, Fair Trials

To access the currently publicly available articles in this issue, visit Those articles with a check mark, rather than a lock, to the left of their title are those currently available as a public service courtesy of the Federal Sentencing Reporter. The articles available to the public will change every two weeks on a rolling basis, with the first such change taking place on July 22. Once an article title is clicked, there will be a pop-up window. Close the pop-up window and click “PDF” on the top right of the article in order to read the selected piece.

This double issue of the Federal Sentencing Reporter follows on the release in 2018 of NACDL’s groundbreaking report – The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It. Information and a PDF of NACDL’s 2018 Trial Penalty report, as well as video of the entire 90-minute launch event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, are available at

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Ivan Dominguez, NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.