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.You can read the rest of the opinion piece by Mayor Albert B. Kelly here.
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.
Thursday, September 7, 2017
An interesting opinion piece regarding plea bargaining appeared on NJ.com recently. The article, authored by the Mayor of the City of Bridgeton, NJ, discusses plea bargaining and innocence. The piece begins:
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.