Monday, September 24, 2012

The Dark Side of Plea Bargains...

I've never liked the whole idea of plea bargaining, for several reasons.  The aspect that bothers me most is that plea bargaining encourages innocent people to plead guilty, which means the wrong person is being punished and the right person isn't.  Today's Wall Street Journal ($) has a disturbing article about this very phenomenon...

1 comment:

  1. It not only encourages innocent people, but it VERY strongly encourages guilty people to finger innocent people. Consider this scene: a guy happens to be around a crime and the prosecutor assumes he is involves but has no evidence or facts yet wants another "win" for their portfolio. He catches the real criminal, for which he has a ton of evidence. Enter the plea bargain. The prosecutor offers a lesser sentence in exchange for testimony implicating the innocent guy. What has the criminal got to loose by accepting the offer give false testimony? He gets off easy for what he knows he will go down for and if it ever comes out that it was fabricated, he can blame prosecutor pressure.
    I know this because it has happened to someone I know in Texas. And even though one of these "plea-bargain" witnesses broke down on his second day of testimony and confessed in court that none of what he had said the day before was true, and that he had only spit out what the prosecution instructed him to say...the innocent man was still convicted as a "conspirator" (another lovely catch-all in our system) and thrown in jail.
    sentenced to 40 years I might add...for the supposed crime of being a conspirator to a financial scheme (ie no injury, or permanent harm involved). This while people who are convicted of brutally murdering someone in cold blood have gotten 12 years.