Monday, September 24, 2012

The Federal Conviction Machine

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent piece on how federal prosecutors and judges have so rigged the system that the only thing left to do when charged is to plead guilty, guilt or innocence notwithstanding. This clearly is an immoral situation, especially when innocent people plead simply to avoid the draconian sentences that are handed down when federal juries, in their usual Pavlovian style, listen only to federal prosecutors.

The article here follows the fortunes of Kenneth Kassab, who originally was going to plead guilty to an explosives charge because his attorney just did not want to take the risk of trial. After an incident, Kassab changed his plea, went to trial, and actually was acquitted. The diagram below, I believe demonstrates just how rigged the federal system has become:

No doubt, federal prosecutors will claim that they garner in the convictions because they are great lawyers. However, in the words of Justice Antonin Scalia, who pretty much is pro-prosecution: (the federal system) "effectively compels an innocent defendant to avoid massive risk by pleading guilty to a lesser offense."

So, when someone like Scalia, the prosecutor's best friend, says there is a problem, then there is a problem. (Thanks to James Bovard for the link)


Doc Ellis said...

greetings Dr Anderson


Thank you for writing this essay

Doc Ellis 124

FGBA said...

Hi Professor Anderson,
A while back, you posted a few entries about the appeal of convivted meat packer Sholom Rubashkin. Half of his appeal was about an impartial trial judge. Rubashkin's appeals lawyer, Nat Lewin, made up some fantasy and it got widely posted all over the Internet. Well, today the Supreme Court refused cert. The man's 27 year conviction stands.