According to Timothy Sandefur’s In Defense of Plea Bargaining article, “a plea bargain is a contract with the state. The defense agrees to plead guilty to a lesser crime and receive a lesser sentence, rather than go to trial on a more severe charge where he faces the possibility of a harsher sentence.” We are also told in The New York Times Article; Federal Law on Sentencing is Unjust, Judge Rules that “about 97 percent of federal criminal convictions nationwide were the result of plea bargains.” In a Frontline Program- The Plea we watched in class there were interviews of people involved in three separate cases that had involved the plea bargain. In this video a man named Charles Gampero had gotten into a fight outside of a bowling alley and walked away leaving the victim unharmed and alive. After he had left the victim had been killed, but Gampero had been charged with second degree murder and attempt to kill. The prosecutors had told Gampero that they would give him a plea of dropping the charges to manslaughter, giving him 7-21 years and that if he didn’t he would get a mandatory 25 to life. Gampero said because he was positive that he was not at fault and had left the victim unharmed he had wanted to take it to trial.
In the end Gampero wound up taking the plea and not taking it to trial because the judge had scared him so much by telling him that he would get no less than 25 years if he took it to trial. If Gampero had went to trial he would have had the chance of getting less time than his 7-21 years. The judges are allowed to lie to you like they had to Gampero about getting 25 to life. Another example from this video was Patsy Kelly Jarrett. Jarrett was charged for the murder of a gas station tenant years after the murder. Jarrett was home during the time of the murder and the only evidence was someone saying that it was her. The prosecutors had given her a plea bargain of taking robbery and getting five years and later reduced it to pleading guilty and going home. Jarrett had turned down both of these pleas and had wound up getting 25 to life in trial. The plea bargain would have helped Jarrett out and given her little to no time if she had taken it, but she had believed that the judge would see her innocence and wasn’t going to lie and go against her religion. There are many benefits and many downfalls of plea bargaining.
In the Federal Law on Sentencing is Unjust, Judge Rules article we are told that “prosecutors used various strategies to reward those who pleaded guilty and to impose exceptionally harsh sentences on those who whose to stand trial then lost. We begin to learn about the drawbacks of the plea bargain in The New York Times Article; Sentencing Shift Gives New Leverage to Prosecutors article. The article begins by telling us that “prosecutors have gained greater leverage to extract guilty pleas from defendants and reduce the number of cases that go to trial, often by using the threat of more serious charges with mandatory sentences or harsher penalties” and that some judges “punish you for going to trial.” I don’t believe that prosecutors should be able to scare you with harsher punishments and should especially not be able to punish you for going to trial. In the Bill of Rights we are given the rights to a fair trial and by punishing people and giving them more time for going to trial is completely against that.
If you believe that you are innocent you should be able to fight for your right without being scared of given more time because of standing up and using your rights. In this same article we are also told that “the plea-bargain process [is] ‘clearly coercive’ when defendants face harsher or more numerous charges for rejecting deals” we are also told that “ plea bargains “are also ‘extremely lenient in many instances because prosecutors are taking several criminal acts off the table.” The plea bargain may be harmful to some people, but it is incredibly helpful to just as many. For an example, it is harmful to those who did not commit the crime and are take the plea because they feel that they don’t stand a chance in trial, but it is very helpful to those who did commit the crime, allowing them to plea guilty and get a shorter sentence.
As I had previously stated, plea bargains are both helpful and harmful to people, depending on their situation. In The Defense of Plea Bargaining article we learned about the Bordenkircher v. Hayes case. In this case Paul Lewis Hayes was charged with a crime punished with a 2-10 year sentence. The prosecutor had offered Hayes a plea bargain of 5 years if he had plead guilty and told him that if he did not take the plea he would “indict him under the state’s Habitual Criminal Act. Because he was a repeat offender, conviction under the Act meant a lifetime sentence.” Hayes had took the case to trial and gotten a life sentence. If I had been in Hayes’ situation I would have plea guilty and took the 5 years as soon as I had heard that I could get life imprisonment because of the state’s Habitual Criminal Act. On the other hand, if I was in Patsy Kelly Jarret’s situation in the Frontline Program-The Plea I would have done the same as her and taken it to trial. If I had known I was innocent and knew that the only evidence against me was someone saying it was me at the gas station that night I would have believed that I could have won the case.
I believe that plea bargains are very important to the U.S. criminal justice system. Without having plea bargains our criminal justice system would be badly clogged with cases and would be overwhelmed and eventually would not be able to function, leading it to fall apart. With having plea bargains we are able to save both time and money and we are able to give the defendant a lighter sentence and give him less time to serve than he would if he had taken the case to trial. By lessening the sentence it gives the defendant a less serious charge on his record, helping him out. Lastly, I believe that plea bargains help reduce the overcrowding in prisons and make space for the truly heinous criminals.