Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Sociology (MA)

Degree Level



Sociology and Criminal Justice


Brent Smith

Committee Member

Christopher Shields

Second Committee Member

Jeffrey Gruenewald


Social sciences, Pretrial detention, Prosecution strategies, Terrorism


The purpose of this study is to understand how prosecutorial strategies affect pretrial decisions in U.S. terrorism trials and how pretrial decisions in turn affect the disposition of those trials. This research builds off of the work of Smith and Damphousse (1996) which compared terrorism indictees to traditional federal offenders. They found that the use of explicit politicality as a prosecution strategy was a significant predictor of both disposition and the sentence length in terrorism trials. This study focuses on the question of whether the use of an explicitly political prosecution strategy impacts pretrial decisions in terrorism cases and whether the pretrial decisions impact the guilty plea rates in those cases.

This study addresses this issue through a structural-contextual theoretical framework by looking at the prosecutorial strategy of explicit politicality. The reason for this research is to see whether defendants in more heavily politicized cases are less likely to receive pretrial release and if the pretrial detention of the defendants affects the disposition of the trial. Using available data from the American Terrorism Study database, this study looks at data collected for 480 individuals indicted from the years 1980-2006 to investigate whether the prosecutorial strategy used had an effect on pretrial detention decisions. Rather than comparing terrorism indictees with traditional criminals, this study looks at indictees who have been indicted in federal terrorism trials, but were either prosecuted as traditional offenders or had their cases politicized by the prosecution. The study uses bivariate and multivariate analyses to measure the strength of the relationships between prosecution strategy, pretrial decisions, and trial disposition for both traditional and politicized terrorism trials.

In regards to pretrial release, this analysis has shown that defendants with less than high school education are less likely to receive pretrial release and that crime severity and community ties have significant roles in pretrial bail decisions. Surprisingly, race was also significant with white defendants being less likely to be released on bail. However, failure to secure pretrial release was not found to have any significant relationship with case dispositions.