Project Abstract

In April 2021, the Colorado Lab released a report, Racial Disparities in Prosecutorial Outcomes, examining felony cases accepted for prosecution by the Denver District Attorney’s (DA) Office between July 2017 and June 2018. The study found that race and ethnicity were not associated with general plea offers extended. The study did find differences between White, Black, and Hispanic defendants across the other three points of prosecutorial discretion examined: dismissals, deferred judgments, and referrals to Drug Court.

The purpose of this follow-on project was to dig deeper into two points of prosecutorial discretion—dismissals of filed cases and deferred judgments for defendants—to examine whether the characteristics of defendants or the reasons for the dismissal or deferred judgment differed by defendant race/ethnicity.

Overall, results did not show meaningful differences in the reasons why cases were dismissed or defendants received a deferred judgment by race/ethnicity. However, the relatively small number of Black defendants who received a deferred judgment makes interpretation of any potential racial/ethnic differences for that outcome difficult.

This research-practitioner collaboration has taken a step toward improving prosecutorial transparency and identified opportunities for the Denver DA’s Office, including ongoing effort to:

  • Consider the criteria and rationale used to make decisions about dismissals and deferred judgments.
  • Support prosecutors with additional trainings and office discussions on issues such as implicit bias and cultural differences.
  • Augment its case management system to more systematically collect data that can support ongoing case review, learning, and transparency.

Agencies: 

Denver District Attorney’s Office

Research Partners: 

University of Denver, Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab

Reports

Racial Disparities in Prosecutorial Outcomes

A Deeper Dive on Cases That Were Dismissed or Received Deferred Judgment by the Denver District Attorney’s Office in the City and County of Denver