Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Weaponization of Plea Bargain Offers - Mayor Kelly

An interesting opinion piece regarding plea bargaining appeared on recently. The article, authored by the Mayor of the City of Bridgeton, NJ, discusses plea bargaining and innocence.  The piece begins:
In a previous column, I expressed appreciation for the work done on bail reform in New Jersey. My support for the switch to a largely non-monetary bail system comes from what I have seen of the impact on people's lives. No longer do people have to sit in jail only because they don't have the money for cash bail. Bail reform is a good foundational step, but is reform is needed in other areas.

One such area is plea bargains. I honestly never gave plea agreements much thought until an acquaintance shared an article from The Atlantic's September edition, "Innocence is Irrelevant" by Emily Yoffe.
You can read the rest of the opinion piece by Mayor Albert B. Kelly here.  

Atlantic Article on Plea Bargaining and Innocence

The Atlantic has published an article regarding plea bargaining and innocence entitled Innocence is Irrelevant.   The piece, which centers on my hometown of Nashville, discusses the case of Shanta Sweatt. In considering how criminal justice operates today, the piece states: 
This is the age of the plea bargain. Most people adjudicated in the criminal-justice system today waive the right to a trial and the host of protections that go along with one, including the right to appeal. Instead, they plead guilty. The vast majority of felony convictions are now the result of plea bargains—some 94 percent at the state level, and some 97 percent at the federal level. Estimates for misdemeanor convictions run even higher. These are astonishing statistics, and they reveal a stark new truth about the American criminal-justice system: Very few cases go to trial. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy acknowledged this reality in 2012, writing for the majority in Missouri v. Frye, a case that helped establish the right to competent counsel for defendants who are offered a plea bargain. Quoting a law-review article, Kennedy wrote, “‘Horse trading [between prosecutor and defense counsel] determines who goes to jail and for how long. That is what plea bargaining is. It is not some adjunct to the criminal justice system; it is the criminal justice system.’”
You can read the entire article here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

New Report from Fair Trials on Plea Bargaining Around the World

A new report from Fair Trials is a must read for those interested in plea bargaining issues.  Fair Trials is an organization working globally to "improve respect for the fundamental human right to a fair trial."

From the description of the report on the Fair Trials website:
The trial is the archetype of criminal justice. It has captured the public imagination. Just think of the dominance of court-room drama in film, TV and literature: the intense personal drama of the trial for the defendant, whose life hangs in the balance. The public drama of the trial: after the shadowlands of police custody, the evidence and the actions of police and prosecutors are exposed to the bright light of scrutiny. The public sees the rule of law in action, witnesses real-time, the search for truth and justice.

But the trial is starting to disappear. In many parts of the world, trials are being replaced by legal regimes that encourage suspects to admit guilt and waive their right to a full trial. Of the 90 countries studied by Fair Trials and Freshfields, 66 now have these kinds of formal “trial waiver” systems in place. In 1990, the number was just 19. Once introduced, trial waivers can quickly dominate. In Georgia, for example, 12.7% of cases were resolved through its plea bargaining system in 2005, quadrupling to 87.8% of cases by 2012.

The drama of the contested trial is being overtaken by “deals” struck behind closed doors. The personal drama, of course, is no less intense. As a defendant, you have a single life-changing decision to make. Confronted with the overwhelming power of the state and often in detention, your options probably don’t look particularly appealing: plead guilty and get convicted, albeit with a shorter sentence; or gamble on your chances in court where, if convicted, you’ll be sentenced more harshly.


When “incentives” to plead guilty become too extreme, they can persuade innocent people to admit crimes they did not commit. “I’d never plead guilty to something I didn’t do” – you may think this, but going to trial is a gamble and the stakes can be exceedingly high: defendants may plead guilty to avoid the threat of the death penalty or life without parole. In federal drug cases, mandatory minimums have contributed to a system in the US where defendants convicted of drug offences received sentences on average 11 years longer by going to trial rather than pleading. To provide more context for this statistic in the United States, 65 out of the 149 people exonerated of crimes in 2015 had pleaded guilty (44%).
The entire Fair Trials report can be downloaded here.

If you'd like to read more about the likelihood an innocent defendant might falsely plead guilty to a crime, download a free copy of my article The Innocent Defendant's Dilemma here.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Second Global White Collar Crime Institute - Sao Paulo, Brazil

In 2015, I launched the Inaugural ABA Criminal Justice Section Global White Collar Crime Institute in Shanghai, China.  It was an incredible success and brought together practitioners, government officials, judges, consultants, and academics to discuss some of the most important issues in the field. 

I’m please to announce that the Second Global White Collar Crime Institute will be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 7-8, 2017 at the Law Offices of Trench Rossi Watanabe.  The program is now available online, and it is shaping up to be another spectacular event. 

The program includes the following panels:

·      A Prosecutor’s View of Global White Collar Crime from Investigation to Sentencing
·      Navigating Cross Border Government Investigations and Prosecutions
·      Trends Regarding Global Anti-Corruption Enforcement
·      A View of Global White Collar Crime from the Bench
·      Preparing for the Globalization of Corporate Internal Investigations
·      Navigating Global Compliance Trends and global Enforcement Priorities

I hope you will be able to join me for this engaging and informative conference in one of the world’s most active white collar enforcement environments.  Register here while space is still available. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

ABA CJS Hong Kong Conference - Global Investigations and Compliance

As many readers know, I am heavily involved in planning international white collar crime conferences with the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section.  These have become wonderful learning and networking opportunities for those with an interest in the many issues in the field that transcend national boundaries. 

I’m excited to announce the next international conference offering will occur on April 5, 2017 in Hong Kong.  The event will focus on Global Investigations and Compliance:  From Regulatory Trends to Leveraging Innovation and Technology.  I expect this conference to be a wonderful compliment to the successful Global White Collar Crime Institute the American Bar Association held in Shanghai in 2015.  If you attended the Shanghai event, I hope you will join us again and reconnect with the many colleagues and contacts you established at that earlier conference.  If you were not in attendance in Shanghai, I hope you will join us in Hong Kong and be introduced to the growing network of international professionals making these American Bar Association white collar conferences an important part of their network. 

Seating is limited for this event, and I hope you will register today to reserve your spot (click here to register).  I look forward to seeing many of you in April. 

Official ABA Event Description

PwC Hong Kong and the American Bar Association are hosting a full day seminar with four robust panel discussions followed by a networking reception.  The panel sessions will focus on a number of pertinent topics, such as exploring regulatory updates, international investigations, navigating cross-jurisdictional issues in Southeast Asia, and the future of blockchain technology in compliance programs.  The content for these panels will be delivered by leading experts, including prominent attorneys in the US and Asia, US regulators, consulting professionals, corporate executives, professors, and others.  The target attendees for this event are international and Hong Kong/China based legal and corporate professionals focused on white collar crime and compliance.

Topics include:
· Regulatory Update: Recent Trends in Enforcement
· Current State of International Investigations
· Navigating Cross-Jurisdictional Issues in the South Asian Market
· Block-chain Technology: What does it mean for the Future of 
Compliance Programs?

More information here.