Saturday, June 28, 2008

Refusing to Plea Bargain - The Patsy Kelly Jarrett Story

The Washington Post Magazine has a fascinating story posted regarding the Patsy Kelly Jarret murder case and conviction. The introduction to the piece discusses the role of plea bargaining in the case and the consequences of refusing to deal in hopes of vindication. The notion of defendants pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit has been an area of discomfort for the criminal justice system since plea bargaining's rise to prominence. This article reminds us again of the significant consequences of refusing to accept a plea offer and the hard decisions faced by those who must choose between life and truth.

Kelly's case, my first, would end up following me for the next 25 years. Kelly was convicted based on nothing more than the memories of that one eyewitness, who saw the driver of the car fleetingly and, when first questioned, couldn't even say whether the person had been a man or a woman. It remains the most haunting miscarriage of justice I have ever encountered.

Yet the case haunts me in another way. At least twice, Kelly was given the chance to plead guilty and dramatically reduce her sentence -- to as little as five or 10 years. She refused; she said she couldn't swear to something she didn't do. She should have.

Read the entire story in the Washington Post Magazine here:

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