Tuesday, 25 September 2012


Federal Guilty Pleas Soar
As Bargains Trump Trials

MARQUETTE, Mich.—In mid June, under a deal with federal prosecutors, Kenneth Kassab was on the verge of pleading guilty to illegally transporting thousands of pounds of explosives when he changed his mind. A week later, he was acquitted by a federal jury.
Though Mr. Kassab maintained his innocence, he said in an interview that he had been prepared to plead guilty to avoid the risk of possibly decades in prison. His choice to face a jury came at the last minute, prompted by a judge's procedural misstep and what the 53-year-old laborer described as a decision not to tell a ...
Read the full story: online.wsj.com

Peter’s Piece

We are taught from an early age that it’s always better to be honest and when we are wrong we should own up immediately and the punishment won’t be so severe.

Law enforcement agencies take the same stance and the system achieves high conviction rates and works well, until the enforcers get it wrong and an innocent person feels it’s better to plead guilty and get it over with.

Plea bargaining is fine for people who are genuinely guilty, but disastrous for people who are genuinely innocent. The genuinely innocent can also have major problems gaining parole if they have not admitted their guilt.

There has to be a fairer way.

Perhaps in all trials the prosecution should be obliged to present its case in its entirety before a plea is taken. And perhaps an admission of guilt should not be part of the criteria for early release.

Some may scoff at this suggestion and say think of the cost. But what about the cost to an innocent accused?

It is known that in Western democracies at least 10% of prison inmates are innocent. That situation can be due to a number of factors but none greater than expediency having a higher priority than fairness.