Innocent yet Pleading Guilty: The Shocking Truth Behind Plea Bargains
In contemporary times, the United States’ criminal justice system has undergone quite a number of changes. In fact, it has evolved today to become one of the most complex judicial systems in the world. Despite its high merits, one of the things that really raises a lot of questions is the plea bargain. How come it become increasingly prevalent in so many cases today?
It begins with the history
The plea bargain became popular during the years after World War II. This was in response to resolve more than 80% of all criminal cases. However, at the time of its earlier inception, the plea bargain still had a lot of transparency in it. That is, a defendant who was truthfully innocent of a crime could select to go to trial and not fear that he or she might be subjecting themselves to an inevitably long and dreary prison sentence.
This dramatically changed during the 70s and 80s when crime in the US skyrocketed. This was as a result of the booming drug trade that had spread across major cities in America. In response to this, federal legislatures proceeded to intensify the sentences of any criminal violations. One good example is the Rockefeller Laws of 1973, which gave a mandatory minimum of 15 years for anyone found selling 2 ounces of marijuana, heroin, or cocaine!
For example, the federal courts imposed a mandatory minimum of ten years and the maximum sentence of life if one was found distributing 5 or more kilograms of cocaine! With such strict rules put in place, it became increasingly effective for defendants to enter a plea bargain to have their sentences reduced.
Innocent but pleading guilty: a classic case that defied all odds
In 2008, James Owen confidently walked into a Baltimore courtroom despite being in chains and shackles. He had spent about 20 years in prison after being convicted for life. He finally had a chance to prove his innocence after the state had wrongfully convicted him of a crime he did not commit.
He had been unlawfully imprisoned until DNA tests revealed that the body fluids discovered on the victim were not his. In response, a Maryland court put aside his conviction and opted to give him another trial.
State prosecutors, on the other hand, played hardball, insisting they still had sufficient evidence to keep him behind bars. In fact, they offered him the Alford plea; a deal that required him to plead guilty and in response, he was guaranteed an instant release from prison without the danger of facing a conviction or even a retrial.
The other components of the Alford pleas were that Owens could go on record and say that he was innocent of his crime; however, he could not get a chance at exoneration. That means that legally, he was still a killer!
Owen turned down the deal to clear his name. Unfortunately, he spent another 16 months in prison for this decision. But lady luck was on his side because he was later exonerated and had every right to sue the state for wrongful imprisonment.
The ugly side of the plea bargain.
Courts usually determine the guilt or innocence of an individual before conviction. After that, the courts will now turn their attention to fairness. Was the process lived up to and were all the duties duly followed? In fact, it can be quite difficult for a convict to get a hearing, let alone win the case. Even enough evidence that might have been recently unearthed may sometimes not be enough for the case to be given a review. And in the case that it does, convicts are usually coerced into a plea bargain; and the Alford plea to be specific.
The real problem with such deals is that they expose a lot of innocent people to stigma. These individuals are also unable to sue the state and claim compensation for wrongful imprisonment.
Wrongful convictions are depressing and horrible, but it becomes even more miserable when a person that was improperly convicted does not have a chance to legally prove their freedom; or get rightful compensation for the unwarranted time they served in jail.
More in Legal Advice
Trump Says Everyone Thinks He Deserves a Nobel Peace Prize!
Ever since President Trump ascended into office, he’s been making headlines on the Internet due to his controversial statements and policies...March 5, 2018
Allegedly, President Trump knew about Payment to Adult Film Star Months Before Denying it!
The ever-spiraling rollercoaster continues. Last week, things took a heated turn for the worst when it was reported that President Trump...March 5, 2018
CBP Under Trump Administration Plans not to Increase Its Capacity to Process Immigrants Stranded at the Border
The U.S. agency in charge of handling the number of migrants attempting to cross by caravan through the California Mexico border...March 5, 2018
Trump’s Lawyer Michael Cohen Had his Phone Calls Monitored by The Feds
With so much controversy surrounding The President and his legal defense team, Americans have watched from the comforts of their living...March 5, 2018
Paralympics Respond to President Trump’s “Tough to Watch” Insensitive Comments
We all know how the current US president can be a bit rude with his words. It has been a subject...March 5, 2018
Three U.S. Citizens Released from North Korean Prison Camps in Preparation for Trump-Kim Summit
In response to the upcoming historic summit that is to take place between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un and U.S. President...March 5, 2018
President Trump’s Former Physician Claimed He Was Subject of Raid
President Trump’s personal bodyguard, the top lawyer at the Trump Organization, and another man showed up without warning at the office...March 5, 2018
Stormy Daniels Sues President Trump for His “Con Job Tweet”
Aside from the Russian Probe and Cambridge Analytica scandal, President Trump also faces a lawsuit filed by Stormy Daniels, an adult...March 5, 2018
NRA on the Hotspot after Enforcing Gun Ban to Protect Mike Pence
In a recent turn of events, guns were banned during Vice President Mike Pence’s gracing of the National Rifle Association that...March 5, 2018