...the prosecutor-dictated plea bargain system, by creating such inordinate pressures to enter into plea bargains, appears to have led a significant number of defendants to plead guilty to crimes they never actually committed. For example, of the approximately three hundred people that the Innocence Project and its affiliated lawyers have proven were wrongfully convicted of crimes of rape or murder that they did not in fact commit, at least thirty, or about 10 percent, pleaded guilty to those crimes. Presumably they did so because, even though they were innocent, they faced the likelihood of being convicted of capital offenses and sought to avoid the death penalty, even at the price of life imprisonment. But other publicized cases, arising with disturbing frequency, suggest that this self-protective psychology operates in non-capital cases as well, and recent studies suggest that this is a widespread problem. For example, the National Registry of Exonerations (a joint project of Michigan Law School and Northwestern Law School) records that of 1,428 legally acknowledged exonerations that have occurred since 1989 involving the full range of felony charges, 151 (or, again, about 10 percent) involved false guilty pleas.Do go read the whole thing...
Sunday, November 2, 2014
“But would not any program that helps to reduce the shame of sending innocent people to prison be worth trying?”
“But would not any program that helps to reduce the shame of sending innocent people to prison be worth trying?” That's the final sentence of an essay by Jed Rakoff, a U.S. District Judge. He's talking about a proposal for reforming one of the most shameful aspects of the U.S. system of justice, one that no other country uses so pervasively: plea bargains. A sample: