Plea Bargaining: The Devil’s Bargain
Submitted for CJUS 230 to Professor DeBoer
Sarah Price |
This article details the history of the plea bargaining process in the United States of America with a brief delve into ancient history. The roles of each player in the plea bargain process: The prosecutor, the defense attorney, and the defendant. Each on has a part to play in the case. The moral and legal viewpoints of leniency, constitutionality, corruption and coercion are also looked at. In the end the final say on the issues are with the Supreme Court of the land which has many cases involving plea bargaining. This article will hopefully give you a good idea about the process and how it teeters precariously between good and bad.
Plea bargaining is a tool, precariously balanced between the effective use, and the corrupted use of the tool. It’s a tool that has a long and hard history, from the ancient world of repression to the modern era of freedom and justice. Many participants play a role in the plea bargain process as we know it and the stake holders all have much to risk. Like a card game each player see what the other player wants them to see in order to force a fold and the win. Each player is forced to reveal their hands if they go too far, and if they cheat, there is punishment. The Supreme Court has held many hearings on this subject to ensure the Constitution is upheld in the process. In the end some innocent people are in jail and some guilty ones get a soft slap on the wrist.
A. History of Plea bargaining in the United States
1. The Beginning
Plea bargaining has been used around the world in one fashion or another. From ancient history, forcing political and religious prisoners to recant their positions for lighter sentences, or swifter death, to the current version of a less aggressive tool. In the United States plea bargaining has been around since the birth of the country. It was introduced into the criminal justice system as a left over from the British system (Langbein, 1979). Similar to the “bargains” struck with Joan of Arc, the Salem witch trials exhibited early plea deals in the Americas prior to independence (Levinson, 2002). Plea bargaining evolved from eliciting confessions into expediting the prosecution process. The development resulted from the adoption of the Constitution and the complex trial structure created. 1832 saw the rise of plea bargaining as common practice in Boston (Levinson, 2002). By 1850, the federal courts started to use the tool with more regularity, though appellate courts did not see plea bargaining until the 1860s during the civil war (Levinson, 2002). One of the historical bargaining strategies was called the Dana – Stevens – Cory model (Fisher, 2003). The Dana – Stevens – Corey model had a strategy to leverage multiple count charges during the bargaining process and reduce number of charges the defendant faced (Fisher, 2003). Once the process of jury trials became more complicated plea bargaining became a necessity for efficient processing of criminals (Langbein, 1979). The inclusion of lawyers, jury of the peers, motions, and a history of cases to cite gave the trial a more drawn out process. Up until the late 1960s the plea bargaining process was considered unethical and illegal in some cases (Levinson, 2002).
2. The Development
In 1969 the first of several major trials on plea bargaining hit the Supreme Court. The first trial ended in requiring the Judge to ensure the plea is voluntary (Levinson, 2002). In 1970 formal recognition of plea bargaining in the judicial system was won at the Supreme Court level through the case Brady v. United States (Inciardi, 2010) This case recognized an offender’s ability to make the decision to plead guilty in light of the consequences, given the court affirms the ability of the offender to make the decision (Brady vs. The...
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