Sunday, August 29, 2010

Somali Man Pleads Guilty in U.S. Piracy Prosecution

CNN is reporting that Jama Idle Ibrahim has pleaded guilty in federal court in Norfolk, Virginia to acts related to piracy on the high-seas. During the proceedings, Ibrahim admitted he had intended to seize a U.S. merchant vessel on April 10 and hold it for ransom. According to the United States Attorney in the district, this is the first conviction for piracy in Norfolk for 150 years. Sentencing is scheduled for November 29, 2010, and the prosecution and defense have agreed to a recommended sentence of 30 years in prison.

The attack occurred in the Gulf of Aden between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Ibrahim is one of 11 Somalis sent to Norfolk for prosecution in two attacks. Five others are charged in connection with an April 1 attack on the Norfolk-based frigate Nicholas.

Ibrahim pleaded guilty to charges of attacking to plunder a vessel, engaging in a violent act aboard a vessel and using a firearm during a crime of violence. The charge of committing piracy on the high seas, which carried a mandatory life sentence, was thrown out 10 days ago by the judge.

Until this year, there had not been a piracy-related conviction in the United States since 1861, during the Civil War, officials said.

In May, Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, who was accused of leading the attack on the Maersk Alabama in April 2009, pleaded guilty to felony counts of hijacking maritime vessels, kidnapping and hostage taking.
Click here for the full story.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Article Regarding Plea Bargaining and the Brady Safety-Valve

I have just posted my new article on SSRN, which is entitled "Bargained Justice: Plea Bargaining's Innocence Problem and the Brady Safety-Valve."


If any number of attorneys were asked in 2004 whether Lea Fastow’s plea bargain in the Enron case was constitutional, the majority would respond with a simple word – Brady. Yet while the 1970 Supreme Court decision Brady v. United States authorized plea bargaining as a form of American justice, the case also contained a vital caveat that has been largely overlooked by scholars, practitioners, and courts for almost forty years. Brady contains a safety-valve that caps the amount of pressure that may be asserted against defendants by prohibiting prosecutors from offering incentives in return for guilty pleas that are so coercive as to overbear defendants’ abilities to act freely. Further, as a means to discern whether the safety-valve fails in the future and prosecutors are offering unconstitutional incentives, the Brady Court created a litmus test regarding innocent defendants. The Court stated that should the plea bargaining system begin to operate in a manner resulting in a significant number of innocent defendants pleading guilty the Court would be forced to reexamine the constitutionality of bargained justice. That plea bargaining today has a significant innocence problem indicates that the Brady safety-valve has failed and, as a result, the constitutionality of modern day plea bargaining is in great doubt.

Click here to download the article.