A federal judge believes that the justice system in America is broken, and it is forcing people who are innocent to spend years in prison. Judge Jed Rakoff sits on the Federal District Court in Manhattan. He has stated that thousands of people are pleading guilty because they are afraid that they will receive a longer sentence if they do not cooperate with the prosecutors.
Rakoff told the Daily News this week that one to eight percent of people are in prison because they entered into a false plea agreement. The Daily News noted that even if the number was only 0.5 percent, it still means that over 10,000 inmates are pleading guilty and doing time for offenses that they did not commit.
Rakoff stated that the criminal justice system in America is nothing like the one that you see on television. He believes that the criminal justice system has turned into a system of plea bargaining. Rakoff explained his beliefs during a lecture that took place last month at the University of Southern California. Many people who are innocent are led into taking a deal because of plea bargains.
Rakoff stated that prosecutors have all of the cards because of the way the process is structured currently. Prosecutors can persuade defendants to take the deals by holding mandatory lengthy minimum sentence over their heads. That is it is estimated only three percent of cases go to trial.
Rakoff stated that people who are accused of committing crimes are offered five years by prosecutors in many cases. People could face 20 to 30 years if they choose to go to trial. Prosecutors have all of the information, and the defense lawyer does not have a lot to work with. Rakoff believes that it is a system of prosecutor discretion and prosecutor power. He stated that he has seen this working as a criminal defense attorney and a judge.
Rakoff believes that mandatory minimum sentences should be done away with, and the roles that prosecutors play in plea bargaining needs to be reduced. He also believes that judges should be put at the center of the plea process.
Rakoff stated that a junior judge or magistrate judge is what he has in mind. The judge would take offers from the defense and prosecutor. He or she would also examine the case and offer a plea bargain if he believed that it was appropriate.
Patrick Donovan is a Massachusettts criminal lawyer. Attorney Donovan is a former prosecutor who has appeared in over fifty Massachusetts courts. Attorney Donovan handles all types of criminal cases including felony and misdemeanor charges.