Saturday, April 12, 2008

"The Plea"

This documentary by Frontline is absolutely devastating in its indictment of the court portion of our criminal justice system. It's in short (10-15 minute) segments, so if you can't spare the time for the whole thing, then try at least to view a couple of the segments.

Following are a few of the (paraphrased) statements by participating judges, lawyers, and law professors.
1. What people think happens in a court of criminal law does not even remotely resemble what actually does happen.
2. About 95% of felony convictions are obtained by plea bargains, regardless of guilt or innocence. Without this greasing of the wheels, the entire system would collapse. [Detailed examples are shown of individuals who basically were coerced into accepting pleas, even though they believed themselves to be innocent. What happens to some who don't accept a plea also is shown.]
3. The court system is a money-generating enterprise. [People who plea out wind up paying court costs, fines, probation fees, and more---even if the case is dismissed later---in the case of multiple defendants.]

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/plea/view/

This is well worth the watch.