MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Opinion

October 10, 2012

Plea bargains necessary for system

Plea bargains are not always perceived as justice served.

Plea bargains are, however, the best alternative in an imperfect system — a system that is the best in world.

We hear many complaints about the inequities in sentencing.

It seems every day you can make a case for a person receiving a light sentence. You also hear of so many people receiving harsher sentences for lesser crimes.

There is no real way to keep those kind of inequities from occurring in our judicial system.

Plea bargains might be part of the reason for those inequities.

A plea bargain is just that — a negotiation between two sides. It is a compromise.

A compromise leaves both sides unsatisfied.

The guilty party wishes he had received no sentence while victims may wish the sentence could have be tougher.

Plea bargains are almost a game of poker.

Both players know what each is showing, but neither truly knows the outcome of the hand until it is played out.

A defendant agrees to a plea bargain because they are not entirely sure the jury will acquit.

Prosecutors plead out cases because their cases might not result in a conviction.

Some say district attorneys can pad their conviction rates with pleas in an effort to get re-elected. There is a catch-22 there. If DAs plead out cases  too often, their constituents believe them to be soft on crime.

And there is a bottom line to consider.

Plea bargains save the taxpayers money and get criminals off the streets. Trials cost money — sometimes big money.

Plea bargains also unclog the system.

An area prosecutor told the Phoenix that if all cases went to trial then 2012 cases would not see a jury for 20 years.

Cases would be thrown out long before then in deference to a defendant’s right to a speedy trial, but you get his point.

There are approximately three people charged with felonies every day in Muskogee County.

If they all were to go before a jury, justice would grind to a halt.

Yes, it appears that some violent criminals get lighter sentences than some first offenders of lesser crimes.

But a quality alternative to plea bargains has yet to be found.

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