LaserGuy wrote:Well, that depends on the severity of the crime. 44 months added to a 6 month sentence is still extremely severe. 44 months on a 5 year sentence is still severe. Regardless, I would hardly consider a system where confessions are extracted using any form of coercion as "fundamentally fair".
These are for felonies. In the US, a felony as a crime punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year so talking about sentences of 6 months has nothing to do with this. Additionally, 44 months is the AVERAGE. We're not talking about 44 months being added to all sentences as a result of going to trial. Look back over the numbers in the paper you cited.
A relative measure would have been more useful. Unfortunately, they don't cite one in the paper that I can see.
MiB24601 wrote:Additionally, as I have mentioned earlier, confessions are often inadmissible. If a confession was extracted using fundamentally unfair means, it cannot be used against the defendant.
A guilty plea is a confession. The defendant is required to admit to the factual circumstances surrounding the case and accept the punishment befitting the crime. While some jurisdictions allow for pleas of no contest or Alford pleas, many do not, or only do under severely restricted circumstances (particularly in the latter case). Alford pleas are particularly noteworthy in this respect because the defendant is essentially admitting that the only reason they aren't defending themselves is because of the trial penalty; they maintain that they are in fact innocent, but are unwilling to contest the charges. Both ought to raise serious moral flags--if a person is not found factually guilty of a crime, and does not admit to commiting the crime (or, in fact, may nonetheless proclaim their innocence), on what grounds ought they be punished? How can the relavent stakeholders--courts, victims, the DA, or the public at large--be certain that the person who is serving time in fact the person who committed the crime?
MiB24601 wrote:Not all deals are equal. No one is going to claim they are. Depending on many factors, such as the evidence the prosecution has and the circumstances of the case will drastically affect how "good" the deal is. However, if a deal is "bad," it can be thrown out on appeal, which is often handled by a different lawyer than the trial attorney. Additionally, the original deal has to be approved by the judge, and while there are judges who don't treat defendants well, many judges do care about fairness and won't allow a bad plea bargaining agreement to go through.
With the advent of mandatory minima and three strikes-type legislation for various sentences, the role of the judge in sentencing is substantially reduced.
MiB24601 wrote:Actually, most guilty pleas are nolo contendre, which is different from a confession. So, no, most cases do not end in confession. However, I will agree that many suspects do confess. If a confession can't be thrown, it's because it's a good confession. They were caught and when confronted with the evidence against them, they confessed. Remember, people aren't (in the vast majority of cases) just arrested off the street for no reason at all -- it's not a random distribution what so ever.
There's a great deal of research done on the subject of false confessions
. If the police lie about the evidence against a person and use that leverage to convince the person to confess suggesting that doing so will result in leniency on the part of the DA (even if they aren't guilty and there is no evidence to suggest they are), for example, the confession will still hold up in court. And if a trial is held, the false confession is often a powerful piece of evidence that can overwhelm even strong physical evidence that excludes the suspect.
MiB24601 wrote:And by the way, there are many cases where public officials, such as police, DA's and technicians who HAVE been held accountable because of a wrongful conviction as a result of malfeasance. A public official isn't going to be held accountable for a wrongful conviction that isn't their fault. It's not the DA's fault if a lab technician fakes DNA results.
I don't have any specific figures on this one. Innocence Project's website says that such cases are extraordinarily rare.