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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/4/16

Pleading Alford Is a Last Line of Defense Against the Death Penalty

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The prosecution could find only a single incident, more than 20 years old, when a friend of a former foster child said that the defendant had made him "feel uncomfortable" on one occasion. The actual foster child, now a father himself, told investigators that he had had no problems with his former foster parent and that he still maintained occasional contact with him.

The defendant informed his attorney of several errors in the testimony he was shown, including incorrect years and several inaccurate statements. But his lawyer never lodged any objections to its introduction in court. Remember, with the Alford plea, the defendant had to accept everything that the prosecutors entered as evidence.

The lawyer visited his client only a few times while he was in jail awaiting trial. He refused to answer phone calls from the defendant, his parents, and concerned friends. He didn't respond to letters or emails. He simply didn't do the work necessary to mount a defense.

As for the post-plea sentence itself, the recommended guideline called for up to three months in jail, which the defendant had already served in pretrial (solitary) confinement. The judge, however, gave him 15 years in a state prison, with eight years suspended.

This is not a pro bono attorney or public defender we're talking about. The defendant paid him a $25,000 retainer to defend him. Yet he never allowed character witnesses to say anything more than how long they'd known the defendant. They were not allowed to testify about his skill in reaching severely autistic children, or his ability to calm those who were agitated. They were not allowed to testify that they had never witnessed any inappropriate behavior. A former foster parent wasn't allowed to testify that the accuser had falsely accused her of physical abuse. (She was cleared in a state investigation.)

Does the prisoner regret entering an Alford plea? "It's hard to say," he told a mutual friend who is in regular contact with him. "Because the lawyer didn't defend me, it could have been even worse if we had gone to trial."

Still, an Alford plea didn't do this defendant any favors. Indeed, that seems to be the consensus. Unless a person is facing a murder charge, Alford is an albatross.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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John Kiriakou spent 14 years at the CIA and two years in a federal prison for blowing the whistle on the agency's use of torture. He served on John Kerry's Senate Foreign Relations Committee for two years as senior investigator into the Middle (more...)

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