On Innocence – False Confessions and Plea Bargains

Articles about innocence – false confessions and plea bargains:

Why Are There Up to 120,000 Innocent People in US Prisons?
Justin Rohrlich, VICE NEWS, Nov. 10, 2014

Excerpt:
“‘We know for a fact that there are innocent people taking pleas and going to prison,’ Rakoff says. ‘That’s not conjecture.’

“In his recent NYRB piece, Rakoff said plea bargains and mandatory minimums have made the American criminal justice system unfair, opaque, and in some instances, borderline unconstitutional. Although gathering the necessary political capital will be a challenge, Rakoff would like to see the demise of mandatory minimums, which he says have concentrated an inordinate amount of power in the hands of prosecutors. If a prosecutor can’t browbeat a defendant into a plea bargain with the threat of the death penalty or a disproportionately draconian prison term, judges could regain some of the discretion in sentencing they are meant to have, and the system might find at least a modicum of equilibrium. …”

Why Innocent People Plead Guilty
Jed S. Rakoff, The New York Review of Books, Nov. 20, 2014

Excerpt:

“The criminal justice system in the United States today bears little relationship to what the Founding Fathers contemplated, what the movies and television portray, or what the average American believes.

“To the Founding Fathers, the critical element in the system was the jury trial, which served not only as a truth-seeking mechanism and a means of achieving fairness, but also as a shield against tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson famously said, “I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

The Sixth Amendment guarantees that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.” The Constitution further guarantees that at the trial, the accused will have the assistance of counsel, who can confront and cross-examine his accusers and present evidence on the accused’s behalf. He may be convicted only if an impartial jury of his peers is unanimously of the view that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and so states, publicly, in its verdict….”

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