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Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2014 Oct;58(10):1230-52. doi: 10.1177/0306624X13493077. Epub 2013 Jul 2.

Criminal defense in Chinese courtrooms: an empirical inquiry.

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Oklahoma State University-Tulsa, USA.
Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA


Scholars in the field of Chinese criminal procedure law study have long decried the meager legal protection afforded to criminal defendants on trial and the hapless status of Chinese criminal defense attorneys in the courtroom. Unfortunately, very little empirical evidence was available to shed light on how criminal defense was carried out in Chinese courtrooms. Based on observations of 325 actual criminal trials from 55 District People's Courts in J province, this study provides an opportunity to understand the mundane work performed by Chinese criminal defense attorneys. In particular, this study describes how criminal defense attorneys prepare and present their cases (as measured in terms of bail request, overall trial preparation, examination of defendants and witnesses, presentation of evidence, and overall defense strategy), and analyzes the outcomes of their performance. In addition, this study examines the discernible impact of criminal defense work due to types of legal representation utilized (legal aid vs. privately retained attorneys), numbers of attorneys representing the client, and the gender composition of the attorneys.


Chinese criminal trials; courtroom performance; criminal defense attorneys; empirical study

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