Imagine you wake up one morning not in your comfy bed, but in a jail cell. Just last night, you were charged for a murder you did not commit. Now you have to go before a judge in two hours. All of the evidence the police collected points to you. Either way, you are charged with first degree murder. You are offered a deal by the District Attorney. Do you take the plea bargain or not? The plea bargain puts you in jail for ten years. Not taking the plea bargain means risking being in jail for life.
The plea bargaining system has been around for a while. In fact, plea bargaining has been used since the 1800s. In 1800, seventy one percent of charges were disposed of using used this plea bargaining system (McConnell and Chester). From McConnells and Chesters research, the percentage dropped to twenty six percent over thirty four years. The percentage though, increased to eighty seven percent in 1900s (McConnell and Chester). From then, the percentage increased to what is now ninety percent (Lynch 24). More and more defendants are now pleading guilty to decrease the intensity of their punishment, since the plea bargain makes the sentence lighter. The prosecutor, however, has to offer the defendant take a plea bargain. When the defendant takes the bargain, the prosecutor has closure to the case. The defendant also does not go to trial, since he admitted to committing the crime, which allows the judicial system to benefit from it. The plea bargaining system has come about as a result of the advantages it supplies to the judicial system, the community, the prosecutors, and defendants compared to the problems it creates.
One main problem is the misuse of the plea bargaining system. Innocent defendants will suffer the punishments of plea bargaining. When they plead guilty, they cannot appeal their case even when there is new evidence (Tapscott). To the judicial system, they declared themselves guilty and the case is solved. Also, in court, the defendants, prosecutors, witnesses, and lawyers have to hold up their right hand and swear to not lie. Therefore, the judicial courts consider the innocents plea as the truth and not a lie. However, an innocent defendant may plea guilty for several reasons. According to McConville, an innocent can claim themselves guilty to “protect a third party or get the matter over with” (566). This questions the purpose of a plea bargain. Also, the Innocent Project has records of innocent defendants who plead guilty. The records show that these innocent people have served “over 150 years in prison” to avoid the death penalty (Innocent Project). In one case, Christopher Ochoa pled guilty to committing a “murder in Texas” (Innocence Project). In Texas, the sentence to being found guilty with murder is the death penalty. By taking the plea bargain, he was in prison for twelve years instead (Innocent Project), until DNA evidence exonerated him.
Ex-convicts besides innocent defendants also misuse the plea bargain. The plea bargain system is also an advantage to an ex-convict because they familiarize themselves with the justice system. According to Teichners report on CBS, “50 percent of the ex-prisoners will be back behind bars within three years” (Teichner). The ex-prisoners are arrested and put back in jail for committing a similar crime. In “Longitudinal Guilt: Repeat Offenders, Plea Bargaining, and the Variable Standard of Proof,” Covey describes how ex-convicts will use the plea bargain again when being charged for another crime. First, they cannot be bailed out of jail because of their past history (8). Second, being put on trial gives them a higher chance of being proven guilty for the same reason (8). Third, they committed the same crime before, so their punishment will be harsher than a defendant who is committing it for the first time (8). Pleading guilty is a benefit for the defendant, since he or she will be in jail for a lesser amount of time. Because of the lesser amount of time in jail and tendency to commit a similar crime, the defendant can commit more crimes and plead guilty consistently. Just recently, Arthur Lee Crain, an ex-convict charged with robbery, confessed to raping and robberies. He was offered a plea bargain. The bargain was to be in jail for twenty one years starting in May 2013 for his confession (“Ex-Con Pled Guilty”). Crain knew that he would be in jail longer than twenty one years, if he did not take the plea bargain because he was charged with rape on top of robbery. The plea bargain is the way out for ex-convicts to not be punished like they should, with the longer amount of time in jail.
Besides the misuse of plea bargaining, some judges think that people are ignoring their right to a fair trial. In the article, “The Case Against Plea Bargaining”, Lynch uses Chief