Opinion piece references impact of plea bargains on wrongful conviction

Writer Michele Alexander raises the wrongful conviction issue as it relates to plea bargaining. As an example, she writes, Erma Faye Stewart, a single African-American mother of two, arrested in 2000 in a drug sweep in Hearne, TX., claimed innocence, but was very worried about her children’s care while she was in jail. Her court-appointed lawyer told her to take the prosecutor’s deal: plead guilty for probation. She pled, was sentenced to 10 years’ probation, and a $1,000 fine. But now she was a felon. Barred from food stamps, evicted from public housing and homeless, her children were taken and placed in foster care. Read the full New York Times op-ed piece here.

More than 90 percent of U.S. criminal cases are not settled in a trial or by a jury. The plea bargaining system is seemingly essential to a criminal justice system that incarcerates about one in 100 adult Americans. But how often do innocent people plead to avoid the costs—in time and resources—of pursuing a trial or to avoid the risk of conviction and incarceration?

One response to “Opinion piece references impact of plea bargains on wrongful conviction

  1. arkansastruthseeker

    I am against plea bargaing all the way around. I have seen people take pleas just because they want to get out of jail. The coercion done by prosecuters should not be allowed to happen period. One is the guilty get off and hit the streets again. Two the innocent are the one’s who end up behind bars.
    People want to think the crime wave is so much bigger these day’s but its not that there is more crime, they just never arrested the right person to begin with. I understand plea deals are suppose to make the justice system run more smoothly, but the facts are facts. The justice system no longer works the way they are working it and every state in the union needs one central office to examine the wrong doing and clean it up. Plea bargains are nothing more than bribes and should be examined, when the people try to bribe a cop or judge they go to jail, when they bribe the people it’s legal ? I have had people actually tell me I am crazy because I believe this way, what is so crazy about wanting the justice system to do right by the people? Is it really fair that innocent people are behind bars because they did not have money to fight, or was coerced by a prosecutor that was determined to win no matter what the cost? I actually had a letter from my senator that told me he would not agree to a bill that another senator was trying to pass back in 2010. For the national criminal justice act . That spoke volumes to me. He said if he agreed the federal government to examine state and local government it would enroach on states rights. I say B*S*. If they had a federal commission the states would not be so quick to imprison innocent people and the states would finally be held accountable for all wrong done behind the curtain. That letter just showed me that if there ever was a cure to undo the wrong the states are not going to allow it, and to me that’s the frightening part. If there is no one to hold them accountable in any state, then they are pretty free to do as they wish. As I well know all the screaming in the world doesn’t wake people up so what do you do?

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