Monday, August 20, 2012

Plea Bargaining and "Prosecutorial Power"

The New York Times has a panel debate this morning on whether "prosecutors have too much power," spurred by Senior U.S. District Judge John Kane's recently having rejected a plea bargain in a child pornography case in Denver because the defendant had agreed to waive his right to appeal, saying such a deal would undermine the purpose of appellate courts and then later accepting a plea bargain without that stipulation. (Rejected Agreement)(Agreement Later Accepted)

"Legal observers," the Times said " — including the editorial board of The New York Times — focused on the judge's concern as a sign that plea bargains have gotten out of control and in the process given prosecutors too much power. When one party decides whether to bring charges, what charges to bring and whether to offer a plea bargain, is the justice system lacking checks and balances?"

The Pueblo Chieftain carried the story locally, noting that the case attracted national attention last month when the Times published an editorial stemming from the case. That editorial also made reference to the Supreme Court's opinion earlier this year in Lafler v. Cooper where "Justice Anthony Kennedy noted a stunning and often overlooked reality of the American legal process: a vast majority of criminal cases — 97 percent of federal cases, 94 percent of state cases — are resolved by guilty pleas. 'Criminal justice today,' he observed, 'is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials.'"

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