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Pleading With Satan

By       Message WILLIAM FISHER     Permalink
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defendant agrees to waive his right to a jury trial and admit guilt in a summary proceeding before a judge."


This procedure was not contemplated by the Framers. The Constitution simply says, "the Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment; shall be by Jury."


So it's not as if one of our storied forefathers corralled his colleagues and said, Hey, Colleagues, let's come up with a system that's better and cheaper than juries and would also relieve any doubt about guilt or innocence and, that "would replace jury trials with a supposedly superior system of charge-and-sentence bargaining," as Tim Lynch puts it.


Tim Lynch likens the growth of the plea deal to the growth of government in general. "Plea bargaining slowly crept into and eventually grew to dominate the system," he says.


He goes on: "From the government's perspective, plea bargaining has two advantages. First, its less expensive and time-consuming than jury trials, which means prosecutors can haul more people into court and legislators can add more offenses to the criminal code.


"Second, by cutting the jury out of the picture, prosecutors and

judges acquire more influence over case outcomes.' Once a defendant pleads guilty as part of a plea deal, he's guilty. No one has to sweat it out while the Law and Order-type jury comes to its decision."


Supporters of plea deals also point out that a plea agreement, requiring only the approval of the judge, saves the court endless hours of litigation.


From a defendant's perspective, writes Tim Lynch, "plea bargaining extorts guilty pleas. People who have never been prosecuted may think there is no way they would plead guilty to a crime they did not commit. But when the government has a "witness' who is willing to lie, and your own attorney urges you to accept one year in prison rather than risk a ten-year jury sentence, the decision becomes harder."

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William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)

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