Crime

The Devil's Bargain

How plea agreements, never contemplated by the Framers, undermine justice

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Most Americans are under the mistaken impression that when the government accuses someone of a crime, the case typically  proceeds to trial, where a jury of laypeople hears arguments from the prosecution and the defense, then deliberates over the evidence before deciding on the defendant's guilt or innocence. This image of American justice is wildly off the mark. Criminal cases rarely go to trial, because about 95 percent are resolved by plea bargains. In a plea bargain, the prosecutor usually offers a reduced prison sentence if the defendant agrees to waive his right to a jury trial and admit guilt in a summary proceeding before a judge.

This standard operating procedure was not contemplated by the Framers. The inability to enter into plea arrangements was not among the grievances set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Plea bargaining was not discussed at the Constitutional Convention or during ratification debates. In fact, the Constitution says "the Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment; shall be by Jury." It is evident that jury trials were supposed to play a central role in the administration of American criminal justice. But as the Yale law professor John Langbein noted in a 1992 Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article, "There is an astonishing discrepancy between what the constitutional texts promise and what the criminal justice system delivers."

No one ever proposed a radical restructuring of the criminal justice system, one that would replace jury trials with a supposedly superior system of charge-and-sentence bargaining. Like the growth of government in general, plea bargaining slowly crept into and eventually grew to dominate the system.

From the government's perspective, plea bargaining has two advantages. First, it's 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.

From a defendant's perspective, 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 10-year sentence, the decision becomes harder. As William Young, then chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, observed in an unusually blunt 2004 opinion, "The focus of our entire criminal justice system has shifted away from trials and juries and adjudication to a massive system of sentence bargaining that is heavily rigged against the accused."

One point often stressed by progressives is that trials bring scrutiny to police conduct. But when deals are struck in courthouse hallways, judges never hear about illegal searches or detentions. This only encourages further misconduct. Conservatives, meanwhile, are right to wonder whether overburdened prosecutors give the guilty too many lenient deals. Why should an armed robber get to plead guilty to a lesser crime such as petty theft?

It is remarkable how few people will openly defend the primary method by which our courts handle criminal cases. The most common apologia for plea bargaining is a pragmatic argument: Courthouses are so busy that they would grind to a halt if every case, or even a substantial share of them, went to trial. But there is nothing inevitable about those crushing caseloads. Politicians chose to expand the list of crimes, eventually turning millions of Americans into criminals. Ending the disastrous war on drugs would unclog our courts in short order.

In any case, trials are one of the few things the government indisputably should be spending money on. If additional funds are needed, free them up by stopping the nation-building exercises abroad and the corporate welfare here at home. The administration of justice ought to be a top priority of government. 

Tim Lynch (tlynch@cato.org) is director of the Cato Institute's Project on Criminal Justice.

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85 responses to “The Devil's Bargain

  1. Ending the disastrous war on drugs would unclog our courts in short order.

    Possibly, but it would not change the plea system.

    trials are one of the few things the government indisputably should be spending money on

    Prosecutors are not going to give up a good thing just because they have the money and/or the time.

    As long as tack-on charges make a trial not worth the risk for a defendant, the current system is not going to change.

    1. “”””As long as tack-on charges make a trial not worth the risk for a defendant, the current system is not going to change.””

      Agree. How about changing it so that each charge has to be go to trial separately. After all if they can give you separate charges for one incident then why not separate trials. This would turn the tables on the prosecution since then they would have to prepare for separate trials and so they would limit the charges to what they can actually get to trial.

      1. There are problems with this is that it can be used as an end around double jeopardy. Some defendants would spend a decade or more facing trial after trial for the same incident. All the while, the prosecution will claim that each charge is distinct and separate act from the other. One incident could spark a dozen trials for assault, disorderly conduct, weapons possession, tresspassing, etc.

        1. Were that the case, you could argue on future trials that your right to a speedy trial had been violated with these “decades of cases” emerging from the same incident. The prosecutor would be forced to try you on the single charge they knew they could convict you on.

  2. Oh wow that makes a lot of sense dude.

    http://www.anon-toolz.tk

  3. With out plea bargains the war on drugs and the over reach on DUI would nit be possible.

    1. ^^This^^ The only way you can run an industrial justice system, and ours is most certainly industrial, is by most defendents pleading out. If the people as a whole opted out and demanded a trial, the whole system would shut down. Indeed, this has happened in a few local jusrisdictions with DUIs. They finally made DUI punishments so draconian that people had no choice but to demand a trial. And the usual result has been for governments to effectively take away people’s rights to a trial in these cases by making the refusal to submit to a sobriety test a crime in itself.

      1. also,the drug and DUI wars have been waged with a erosion of 5th and 4th amendment rights.You do not need to do harm or be a danger to be arrested.Cops pose as dealers or byers ,roadblacks are used to find the ‘guilty’.You are guilty because a ‘magic box ‘ says so,even absent harn or danger to the public.For most ,defending yourself at trial is too expensive.A entire industy is built on drug and DUI law

      2. A wonderful use of charitable dollars would be to pay for the defense of defendants who are either charged with either Constitutionally or factually questionable crimes to make the cases go to trial and appeal. This would prevent defendants from being coerced by the threat that they will go bankrupt defending themselves and force these cases into a higher public profile.

  4. Chicken and egg. To reduce plea deals you have to reduce all the laws governments like to enact to show they are solving a “problem”. But law enforcement likes to be able to drop 50 charges on a defendant so they have a better chance of conviction. Everybody is happy except the people that have to deal with the bullshit charges.

  5. 15 years ago my now husband was 19 years old and went to an ex girlfriends house to get some things back he had lent her. she let him in. they argued, she attacked him, he pushed her really hard onto her butt while still holding the things in his hands, called her a bitch and left. the next day the police knocked on the door of his apartment and took him away. he was charged with BURGLARY a felony, even though i can see on his record the underlying offense was “simple assault” which is a misdemeanor. they scared him to death, he was poor and had no conception of the law. he plead guilty to avoid a year in prison. now this felony is on his record forever–he still doesn’t understand what happened to him, he still wonders if he can appeal or do something, he can’t get a gun legally, it thwarts his job prospects and its a dark cloud hanging over his head–forever. at 34 he is hardly the 19 year old boy who pushed his ex. hes a decent, kind, strong, independent, protective man who feels like the government has permanently tied a bib around his neck. its terrible

    1. He’s right. It has.

    2. Dana, I sat on a jury where a similar case came to trial. A petty fight between a working class mexican and his girlfriend and her mother blew out into a full case child endangerment, kidnapping, and assault charge because he slapped them back and took his daughter across the street.

      Working class men are targets of the hyper chivalrous American culture. If a man gets into a fight with a woman, he better have a very clear head otherwise, they’ll railroad him.

      I don’t know if anyone gave you this advice, but have you considered writing your governor and asking for a pardon? If he has a clean record and is trying to get his life back together, you might be able to move on with your lives.

  6. the constitution does NOT prohibit pleas deals.

    1. True. But so what? It does gaurentee due process and the right to a jury trial. The proliferation of plea deals has greatly erroded people’s access to these rights. Even if such deals are constitutional, that doesn’t make them a good idea or their effects on the justice system anything but negative.

      Is there any use of government power you don’t love?

      1. “The proliferation of plea deals has greatly erroded people’s access to these rights.”

        NO it hasn’t, no part of the process makes proceeding to trial any more difficult.

        1. If you are too stupid to understand the second order effects of plea deals, than there is no point in debating with you. It is not lying, it is called understanding the second and third order effects of something you literal minded dimwit.

          1. Yeah, name calling makes your argument stronger.

            Listen, are you all nuts? Voluntary arangements are only okay if it’s between businesses and consumers and employees? I have entered into plea bargains before, even for things that I was, er a, fairly innocent of. You know what? The probation and the petition of nondisclosure agreements were worth the injustice. I had a right to a trial. I waived it.

    2. On the other hand the Constitution does not specifically permit plea deals. The model used to be that powers and authorities not specifically granted to the government by the Constitution were forbidden. We should return to that standard.

      1. state constitutions do NOT prohibit plea deals either.

    3. Hasn’t OO there argued the opposite is true for individual rights? That if it’s not in the Constitution explicitly, it’s not a right? But the argument works for the government, huh?

      1. nope havent made that argument. fact is neither the federal nor state constitutions prohibit plea deals.

      2. except the 9th and 10th Amendments do allow rights not specifically addressed to exist.

        1. Which is why the 9th amendment is always the right answer.

  7. Don’t accept a plea deal, you’re certainly not required to.

    1. Sure. You can always demand your rights. And then if you get convicted of anything face rediculous jail time under minimum mandatory sentencing or the wrath of a hang em high judge outraged that you actually expected the government to prove their case. And even if you do win and are quitted, a decent defense attorney will charge you anywhere from $10,000 and up to do the trial for you.

      So when they offer you probation, no jail time and it only costs you $1000 in legal fees rather the $10,0000 and the risk of three or four years in prison, what the helll turn down that offer. Good luck with that.

      1. And even if you beat the rap on 29 of the 30 bogus charges the prosecutor hung on you, some judges reserve the ability to sentence you based on all those charges, even if you were acquitted of them. So can you beat 30 bogus charges? Including if one of them is ‘lying to investigators’?

        1. Pretty much all judges in an indeterminate sentencing jurisdiction have the right to do this, Highway. So long as your sentence for the charge they actually convicted you of, fits within the amounts listed for that charge, a judge is given a lot of leeway in imposing that sentence.

          Piling on your “lying to investigators” comment, is it still the case for Federal agents (FBI, SEC, etc…) that they don’t use tape or video recording for their interrogations, instead relying on handwritten notes? I was floored when I read that was the case for the Martha Stewart trial.

          Another caveat on the probation choice that John mentions, is that frequently the accused is going to have to spend that $10k anyway, on the costs of complying with their probation (mandatory counselling, piss tests, fines when the accused slips up, etc…) For those of you who say the probationer has no one to blame but themselves, that’s true, but go talk to a criminal defense attorney about probation requirements sometime. See if you could follow all of them, all of the time. I’m guessing you’ll be surprised by how onerous they are. My suspicion is that the process is set up to induce the probationer to fail, as that way, the state/municipality gets more money.

          The state is getting their money, one way or the other.

          1. you are soooo right

        2. “some judges reserve the ability to sentence you based on all those charges, even if you were acquitted of them. ”

          Lie.

          1. Highway is correct. Go look up the concept of “Acquitted-conduct based sentencing.” An example of its use, (and an interesting blog in its own right) can be found here: http://sentencing.typepad.com/…..ers-2.html

  8. “Good luck with that.”

    Had great luck with it, turned down plea and got acquitted. Stop pretending your points aren’t vapid and worthless.

    1. And the 10,000 other people who got fucked for making that choice can’t post here because you don’t get access to the internet in prison dipshit.

      1. Stop feeding it, John.

        1. “Stop proving it right, John.”

          FYP

      2. “And the 10,000 other people who got fucked for making that choice”

        I don’t care what people think when they make up numbers to support their stupid assertions, like you did there. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE A PLEA DEAL, the rest is childish whining.

        1. I know, hi, y’all are supposed to be libertarians, y’all are supposed to know the difference between voluntary and involuntary. I am an atheist who attended NA meetings (12 step shit is some religious shit, if people say it’s not, they are liars) and talked lil mexican chicks out of abortions for a church as part of my community service. Totally preferable to the alternative.

    2. It doesn’t work that way for many. So stop pretending your anecdotal evidence is universally valid. There is plenty of evidence that innocent people accept plea bargains out of fear of wrongful conviction, especially when pissed-off prosecutors start promising to up misdemeanor charges to felony counts. It’s the devil’s calculus for people. You may have won, but for people with few resources and little legal experience, the deck is stacked against them. If you are a young black male minding your own business and some cops bust you and “find” a dime bag on you, how are you going to prove they didn’t find it? And when they tell you that if you don’t take a plea bargain on that dime bag that they will charge you with distribution and send you to the slammer for years and make sure you’re some bull’s butt-boy, what would you do?

      Your experience is hardly representative. I’ve known innocent people who’ve gone through this and known they didn’t stand a chance against a “justice” system that was piling on charge after charge, so they pled to a lesser charge rather than see their lives destroyed completely.

      There’s a lot of pressure to accept a plea bargain even when you are innocent. So stop pretending your response isn’t vapid and worthless in general.

      1. Along with the upping of charges to felonies, you have the “plea guilty or we will charge your wife/son/great grandmother with numerous felonies.”

        1. Ahh yes, the old extortion method. It would be illegal for anyone but “public servants.”

          1. So say no and make them, stop pretending cowardice is pragmatism, it’s bad enough you were wrong about it three times already.

      2. “It doesn’t work that way for many. So stop pretending your anecdotal evidence is universally valid. ”

        YES IT DOES, actually, you either accept the deal or you don’t. It most certainly DOES work that way for EVERYONE in the US criminal Justice system.

        Why would you try to lie like you did?

      3. “There is plenty of evidence that innocent people accept plea bargains ”

        CHOOSE to accept, which concisely proves me correct, and you totally wrong.

      4. even WITH plea bargains, conviction rates from county to county are never above 50%. Innocent or not, people should have the choice between paying thousands of dollars in lawyers fees and risking EVERY POSSIBLE CAREER IN THE FUTURE (people with B misdemeanors can’t work at Walmart or Target, people) and skipping all that nonsense. If you think many innocent people opt out of trials because they are afraid injustice will be done, FIX THE INJUSTICE ISSUES! Change public opnion about the assumption of guilt, fight for laws that would compensate those found not guilty (I mean come on. Even Casey Anthony deserves some money after all that fake air testing nonsense.) Don’t advocate against voluntary arangements that save taxpayers and the accused money and time.

  9. The Drug War can share a large part of the blame. But plea deals are generally a good thing. An overwhelming percentage of the people who are charged are guilty of the crime charged. Now, if you like lawyers, by all means change the plea system. The “justice” system will need hundreds of thousands of more lawyers, judges, clerks, filers. The new system will create jobs, that’s for sure.

    Oh, by the way, get ready to spend a lot of your time serving on juries.

    1. That is a valid point. But here is the other way to think of it. If the vast majority of them are guilty, than there shouldn’t be a problem with proving it. And if you think those people will get screwed with long sentences, maybe our system is imposing sentences that are too harsh? If they made everyone have a trial, it would make prosecutors a little more circumspect on who they charge. I see that as a very good thing.

      1. Again, on drug charges, I share your sentiments. And ending that stupid war may go a long way to reducing the ill effects of plea deals. But a plea deal is nothing more (from a legal perspective) than someone saying they are guilty. Maybe I am overreacting to the statement that the Constitution doesn’t contemplate plea deals. It surely must contemplate people pleading guilty if they are. I honestly believe that overburdening prosecutors with more trials, while it could lead to your notion of increased circumspection, might also lead to even dirtier tactics by some prosecutors (if that is possible) and many who are guilty going free.

        My only point is that simply getting rid of plea bargaining alone won’t solve the problem.

        1. “and many who are guilty going free.”

          Plea deals help this to happen too. The cop/judge/politician who gets caught of anything short of murder will get a sweetheart plea so they don’t have to face a jury.

        2. While getting rid of plea bargaining won’t fix the problem by itself, it will help. To me it seems the biggest problem is the add-on charges, most of which are minor and, frequently, victimless.

          So you can have the perverse situation of someone who is actually guilty of doing harm to others being convicted instead of a victimless crime because the prosecutors can’t find enough evidence of the actual crime…or lack resources to do so because they’ve allocated them to lower value activities such as prosecution of victimless crimes absent other charges.

          Face it, people who are innocent of harming others but who are hit with a slew of charges are muscled into plea deals all the time through the fear of going to prison. This problem will not be solved with one action; it will take a structural review of what our justice system has become. And that won’t happen until enough everday citizens’ lives have been destroyed to make the general populace’s anger outweigh the benefits to the entrenched interests in the system.

    2. “An overwhelming percentage of the people who are charged are guilty of the crime charged.”

      Are they really? how do we know this? And are they guilty of anything that a sane person would consider an actual crime, or are they “Guilty” of violating some ordinance thought up and badly written by some crusading twit, and passed in a flurry of hysteria and propaganda? Or “Guilty” of Contempt of Cop, Talking Out Of Turn, or something similar?

      1. I concede that amny of the laws that are broken may be idiotic. Those are the drug crimes primarily. Violations of most ordinances are not considered crimes. I have rearely been in criminal courts, but when I have been, the crimes are overwhelmingly, drug related, burglaries, assaults, and domestic violence.

        I will restate my primary thesis. Simply ridding the system of plea deals will not solve the problem of innocent people going to jail. And it will create many other problems not dicussed by this article.

        1. The problem isn’t with plea bargains per se, but rather with the use of plea bargains to force people into pleading guilty for things that they shouldn’t have to plead to. Unfortunately there is no real way to distinguish between “good” plea bargains and “bad” plea bargains on the surface. I think there is a time and a place for plea bargains (e.g., a serial killer agrees to plead guilty to reduced charges on all of his victims, even the ones the DA couldn’t otherwise prove he did rather than insisting that each murder be tried separately and the cops not know which ones he was responsible for and which ones he wasn’t).

          So some of them make sense. But others are nothing more than an attempt to railroad defendants and pad the statistics of the DA’s office. Systematically you can’t really exclude one or the others, but there ought to be some ways to at least remove the systematic use of plea bargains where DAs threaten to add charges for “looking cross-eyed at the arresting officer” if the defendant doesn’t plea.

          1. I will quote db above “it will take a structural review of what our justice system has become.” Maybe I am way to cynical, but in my view that can be translated into “we’re fucked”. But I’m an old fuck just trying to live in peace.

  10. (yawn) More pathetic Losertarians making excuses for criminals who are mostly minorities by the way.

    1. If you support the king and his men, you are, by definition, a LOSER.

  11. The Framers of the Constitution would probably never imagined that the US would have more people imprisoned than any of the other countries of the world combined.

    1. “Jeopardy” writers have some work to do. It used to be that the Jeopardy question for the answer, “Most people in this nation can trace their lineage back to felons,” was “What is Australia?” Give it a generation or so and the answer will probably flip to “What is America”? Maybe it already has.

  12. Here is the part of the criminal justice system I have never understood: how can defendants be indicted for two separate charges for the same crime? For example, Casey Anthony is charged with both first degree murder AND manslaughter. Should it not be one or the other?

    1. Some states allow crimes to be charged in the alternative. What this means in practice is that the prosecutor gets to indict a person using multiple theories to try to net a conviction for one of them.
      Other states will just allow the jury to be instructed by the judge that they may consider finding the accused guilty of “lesser included” offenses. Charging offenses in the alternative is the state’s way of throwing a bigger net hoping to make something stick.
      Your point is well noted, however, and for the people accusing a person of a crime to lay out the jurors exactly how they think it happened, and to present it as if though they are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, only to offer up alternative charges is highly disingenuous at best.

    2. This might help: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L…..ed_offense

      Without this doctrine, you run the risk of either falsely finding them not guilty of any offense, or of finding them guilty of a lesser offense than they were entitled to. You can think of it as all murderers are at least guilty of manslaughter, so charging them with manslaughter is appropriate. To prove murder, the prosecution needs to show some additional evidence beyond that necessary to prove manslaughter.

  13. It’s not just the poor and those unfamiliar with the law to whom it happens either. This is exactly what happened to Bobby DeLaughter, a hero prosecutor who put civil right era murderer Byron de la Beckwith in jail back in the 90s. Prosecutors dreamed up some bribery scheme involving him to charge Dick Scruggs with to make it easier to prosecute him for the bribery charges they already had him on, and he was the one they picked. No one else was ever convicted of anything in that case, but they basically gave DeLaughter the option of pleaing out for 18 months or risking a trial that could put him away for 30 years. It’s obvious to anyone familiar with the case that he had done absolutely nothing wrong or even remotely fishy, but he wound up in jail for a year and a half.

  14. As a criminal defense lawyer for nearly 20 years, I agree that our criminal justice system has devolved into a plea factory, with fear of a criminal record and/or incarceration the accused’s primary motivation for accepting a deal that deprives him of his rights and opportunity to defend himself against charges. Because the police understand that the vast majority of arrests will be settled by a nice tidy plea they know they can make bogus arrests, violate rights, and manipulate evidence — with impunity. And, if the police are required to testify, many lie. A long time criminal defense lawyer once remarked to me, “The police lie when the truth would do.” And why do they perjure themselves so routinely? Because judges simply look the other way. See my article at http://www.relentlessdefense.c…..e-system/.

  15. While I’m not necessarily sure the plea bargaining process is in conflict with the Constitution, I am sure that it is often in conflict with justice. It is almost always the secondary and tertiary effects that are the issue.

    One of the issues is how judges have been trained by the system to sentence defendants. While not at all fair, a defendant who sees his case through to trial and is convicted will serve a substantially harsher sentence for doing so in almost every case.

    The judge won’t say she’s punishing the defendant for taking the case to trial, and will never be overturned for sentencing to harshly. The legislature has given a wide latitude in most states for sentencing. This means those who negotiate for a plea will generally serve the least amount of time, while those who “waste the court’s time” with a trial will face the consequences.

    A defendant who wants to admit guilt but wishes to eschew the plea bargaining process, as has been suggested in comments above, will face the same situation. For many courts, causing the judge to actually spend time during sentencing instead of having the case “worked out” by the defense attorney and prosecutor will also result in a much higher sentence for the accused.

    The system isn’t fair to the victims, either. A system that doesn’t actually force the offending person to confront their mistakes in a public setting, but instead allows them to just say a few words or provide affirmative responses to a few questions during a plea colloquy doesn’t provide the psychological effect admitting guilt in public should provide for someone whose conduct has harmed another.

    1. But where are the incentives? Don’t the judges and the lawyers for both sides get paid to have their time spent? This would be an odd circumstance indeed if gov’t employees were actually trying to make less work for themselves by punishing those who keep them in a job!

  16. Prosecutors are metaphorically pointing two weapons at you, one small caliber and one large caliber, when doing a “plea bargain”. Take the plea and you are “shot” with the smaller caliber weapon, go to trial and you risk being “shot” with the large caliber weapon, if convicted at trial.

    It’s not bargaining, it’s blackmail.

    I wouldn’t have an issue with real “bargaining” if that’s how prosecutors handled it, meaning that if you rejected the plea, they couldn’t try you for more serious charges.

    1. One way would be determining penalties up front.

      Ie., if you plead guilty OR are convicted of the crime as the prosecution claims, you would be sentenced to this. You choose guilty and take the sentence or you choose jury trial and risk the exact same sentence.

      Not perfect, but neither is the status quo.

      1. Also,DUI cases that go to trial have a 50% not guilty rate,in some states more.Why not get a plae and all the fine money and not take a chance

      2. …Why would one plead guilty, then?

  17. my problem is that you’re not allowed to use the denial of a plea deal in court as evidence in your defense. That’s bullshit.

  18. My motorcycle was stolen, so I reported it to the police. The police offered to give me a misdemeanour plea charge of filing a false police report in place of a felony charge for fraud.

  19. It would seem that an unintended consequence of a increasing the number of attorneys working on both sides of the criminal justice system. Methinks that more lawyers = more trouble… just sayin.

  20. Traffic court is as crooked with plea deals as well. Many local courts are delighted to accept a no contest plea to a lesser charge along with a revenue-enhancing arrangement like “bond forfeiture”.

    I once had to deal with a traffic charge in a court system where the judge in question would absolutely not allow any kind of pleas in his courtroom, so we had to actually plan a defence. (I ended up escaping with a dismissal due to the prosecution’s repeated paperwork mix-ups in my favour.) I must confess I had a great deal of respect for that judge. He had just recently started allowing ticket payments by mail–he used to make everyone show up for arraignment.

  21. Something is very fishy here if there’s anything to public choice theory. Since when do gov’t workers want to take short cuts? You would think their incentive would be always to make the most possible work, regardless of the prospective outcomes of trials. Could it really be that plea bargaining is a result of civic-mindedness rather than greed? But then why is there more civic mindedness here than in other depts.?

    1. Judges usually have a large backlog of work. In the Federal system at least, they are evaluated on the size of that backlog. Lengthy trials are therefore disfavored. I do not know what incentives or punishments are used to induce judges to reduce their backlog—being appointed for life probably cuts down on what you can do to them—but I understand the Chief Judge for a District has some control over his/her judges.

      To make a long story short, while judges and lawyers are paid for their time in court, they’d like the process to move along as fast as practical. Hence the widespread use of plea agreements.

      1. Why can’t that be arranged for other gov’t depts.?

  22. I don’t know where Lynch has been, but Paul Craig Roberts has been on this for many years.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/roberts/roberts187.html

    http://www.vdare.com/pb/death_of_due_process.htm

  23. Moments ago, the Casey Anthony jury came in. If I heard correctly, the verdicts were NOT guilty on all the alleged crimes (murder, manslaughter), but guilty on all the charges of “providing false information to law enforcement.”

    Perjury has always been a crime. It didn’t used to be a crime to lie to authority if you weren’t under oath. The current state of affairs only gives prosecutors more leverage to harry defendants.

  24. Gang, I have worked as a prosecutor for years and there are very good points to make about the problems with plea agreements. However, it is easy to fall into the libertarian stereotype that the prosecutors and police are the bad guys. The courts protect our right to be free from physical attack and free to enjoy our property. A criminal justice system is one of the foundations of freedom.

    1. Ya, Rob, and it’s a pretty shoddy one at that. The prosecutors and police are evaluated and their careers are affected positively based on how many lives they can ruin. It’s not like there aren’t really bad guys. Of course there are. But the people in the criminal justice system are basically paid to arrest convict and fine as many people as possible. The system creates the bad guys. If the system changed, it’d be a different ball game.

  25. And, for what it is worth, I don’t think the lawyers cause the laws, I think the laws cause the need for lawyers. We have WAY too many criminal laws.
    The modern, “federal style” method of making everything illegal unless it is made legal by statute or regulation is particularly bad.

  26. What kind of over-hyped horseshit is this? Should my client who is caught on surveillance committing larceny have to hang his hopes on a jury of law and order assholes and maybe spend the next 5 years in prison and then suffer the next decade with a reputation as a felon? No. The plea system is not for people who are arguably innocent. If an attorney is worth his salt he can impeach a lying witness or forgetful witness. But there are sometimes where your client made an admission to his employer, is caught on tape, or just left a fucking trail of evidence and going to trial is nothing but sending a man to prison. Better to try and lessen the consequences and hope its an error of judgment.

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