View Full Version : Does plea bargaining lead to miscarriages of justice?

May 1st, 2010, 9:40 PM
Plea bargaining has become a major part of the American criminal justice system. 90% of all criminal cases end in plea bargains, even minor traffic cases. However, argressive plea bargaining has shown to lead to wrongful convictions by enticing innoncent people into believing the State can prove they are guilty and offering them a substantially lighter sentence if they plead guilty.

Some argue that plea bargaining violates a person's trial by jury, whether or not they are actually guilty of the offense. Justice Hugo Black once noted that, in America, the defendant “has an absolute, unqualified right to compel the State to investigate its own case, find its own witnesses, prove its own facts, and convince the jury through its own resources. Throughout the process, the defendant has a fundamental right to remain silent, in effect challenging the State at every point to ‘Prove it!’” By limiting the powers of the police and prosecutors, the Bill of Rights safeguards freedom.

In the 1991 book Presumed Guilty: When Innocent People Are Wrongly Convicted, author Martin Yant discusses the use of coercion in plea bargaining.
Even when the charges are more serious, prosecutors often can still bluff defense attorneys and their clients into pleading guilty to a lesser offense. As a result, people who might have been acquitted because of lack of evidence, but also who are in fact truly innocent, will often plead guilty to the charge. Why? In a word, fear. And the more numerous and serious the charges, studies have shown, the greater the fear. That explains why prosecutors sometimes seem to file every charge imaginable against defendants.

The number of people who have been exonerated for their crimes after the dawn of DNA evidence is astounding considering the number of people who were exonerated post-execution.