Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Supreme Court on Victims' Rights and Plea Bargains

The SCOTUSblog has two interesting posts regarding the Supreme Court's refusal on Wednesday to enter a stay preventing a federal judge in Texas from considering a plea bargain relating to charges that stem from an oil refinery explosion in March 2005. The explosion killed fifteen workers and injured more than 170. Under the proposed deal, BP Products North American, Inc. would pay $50 million in fines and plead guilty to a violation of the Clean Air Act for failing to maintain equipment and for failing to warn workers of the potential for fire and explosion. The stay was requested by victims of the blast who allege the deal is too lenient and was constructed by prosecutors without any input from them.

While the stay has been denied, an appeal of a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit opinion limiting the blast victims' rights to object to the plea deal under the Crime Victims' Rights Act is being prepared and might answer the ultimate question: What rights do victims have with regard to the preparation and negotiation of a plea agreement? Perhaps even more fundamental, however, should be the question: What moral obligations does the government have to seek input from a victim before deciding how to dispense with a case.

See the SCOTUSblog posts here:

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