Martin Killias: Hearing the defendant before convicting him: A matter of fairness. Results of a randomized experiment among prosecutorial offices

Katedra sociologie FF UK zve na veřejnou přednášku prof. Martina Killiase (University of St. Gallen, Switzerland) s názvem „Hearing the defendant before convicting him: A matter of fairness. Results of a randomized experiment among prosecutorial offices“.


The right to be heard is an essential requirement of procedural fairness. This is particularly crucial in criminal proceedings. However, given the limited resources of prosecutors and courts and the increasing case-load, legislators have invented several ways to “streamline” rules and restrict hearings. Plea-bargaining is a common practice in America and many countries under the influence of Anglo-Saxo legal principles. In Europe, equivalent simplifications have been introduced over last decades in most countries, among which “penal orders” are the most common example. Penal orders are prosecutorial indictments that, in minor cases and if the defendant does not insist on a judicial review, become automatically final verdicts. In most cases, prosecutors do not even interview the defendant and/or his council but decide based on the police file only. This system is controversial because of its infringements with fundamental principles of procedural fairness, but more than 90 percent of all criminal cases are dealt with in this way in Switzerland.

In order to find out whether the absence of a hearing with the defendant impacts on the outcome including the sentence, a RCT has been conducted in Eastern Switzerland with random assignment of incoming cases to either an experimental group (where defendants are being interviewed), and a control group of cases (without hearing, i.e. along standard practice). The outcomes show that defendants who had been heard see the handling of their case as more fare than those who were not. The sanction imposed is, according to the results, not affected by hearings, but the outcome of the procedure differs (more cases are dropped if the defendant has been interviewed by the prosecutor). Further differences, such as the frequency of reconvictions, will be analysed in a second phase. Given the experimental nature of the research design, causal inferences are possible. Hearings make a difference.
(Authors of this research: Martin Killias, Nora Markwalder, Lorenz Biberstein, University of St. Gallen: Michel Maréchal, Andreas Beerli, University of Zurich)


Martin Killias obtained his doctorate in law from Zurich University (Switzerland), followed by a master‘s degree in sociology and social psychology. After three semesters spent at the University of Albany School of Criminal Justice, he served for 25 years as Professor of criminology and criminal law at the University of Lausanne School of Criminal Sciences. In 2006, he joined the Zurich Law Faculty as a full Professor of criminal law, criminal procedure, and criminology. Since 2013, he has been teaching the same subjects at the St. Gallen University Law School. Beyond teaching, Martin Killias also served part-time as a judge at the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland (1984–2008). Martin Killias has been known mainly for his strong involvement in comparative and experimental criminology. He has been one of the leading initiators of the International Crime Victimization Surveys, the International Self-Reported Delinquency Study, Business Crime Surveys, and the European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics, as well as of several experimental studies on the effects of different sanctions. He has a strong commitment to rigorous evaluations of new sanctions and correctional programs that he pursues as a co-chair of the Campbell Collaboration Crime and Justice Group. He has authored and/or co-authored 12 books and 250 articles (mostly for peer-reviewed journals), and edited and/or co-edited 11 books.

Podrobnosti události

Začátek události
9.12.2019 17:30 - 19:00
Místo konání
nám. Jana Palacha 2, Praha 1 (hlavní budova FF UK, místnost č. 104)
Katedra sociologie FF UK
Typ události
Konference a přednášky