If somebody pleads guilty, they must be guilty, right? Maybe not so much.
We recently wrote about NACDL’s report on the vanishing right to a fair trial (6th Amendment) because 97% of federal cases conclude with a guilty plea. One could look at this in a positive light and think that prosecutors only pursue cases where there has been a crime … but a closer look suggests that they go after cases that they can win.
John Oliver, who does an amazing job condensing complex issues into humorous, biting snippets in his Last Week Tonight Segment, once again does a great job telling a story of abuses we are seeing in prosecutorial powers … and his staff did the research! This is a growing problem and one we see here with a number of clients.
Look, prosecutors protect us from the bad guys (woman gals). They uphold the laws of our country and, hopefully, hold people, guilty people, accountable for their actions. However, recent cases have shown a trend of abuse that we must take not of.
It is not un-American to push back on prosecutors, it is our duty. They are public servants, they work for US and we can ask that they do their jobs. In many cases, they seem to do that (Boston Marathon Bomber, Allen Stamford, Bernie Ebbers, etc) but when there are abuses, we should also point that out.
There are a number of initiatives on prison reform, but the first part of reform is questioning how so many people are being sent to prison under harsh drug laws and circumstantial evidence in white collar crime cases. One answer is that prosecutors are hiding evidence that would otherwise lead to the acquittal of a crime:
“Oliver also noted that prosecutors were responsible for hiding 25% of exculpatory evidence leading to innocent people spending time in jail. Oliver played a clip of one D.A. setting the bar extremely low by saying that a person spending 30 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit was “better than being executed or dying in prison.” When prosecutors do cross the line into misconduct, such as purposefully hiding evidence that could exonerate a person, there is very little accountability.”
When it comes to white collar crime and drug convictions, it is extremely rare to have specific evidence that ties someone to a crime (DNA and video). So it seems unconscionable that prosecutors who have evidence in hand that would clear someone, would threatening harsh penalties of long terms in prison if the defendant doesn’t “take the deal.”
A little common sense on our judicial system and. special thanks to John Oliver for bringing it out! (Watch the full video of Oliver’s piece here)
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