Friday, November 7, 2014

Why Innocent People Plead Guilty

Roughly 10% of those defendants who were later exonerated by DNA evidence through the efforts of the Innocence Project pled guilty to a crime they did not commit.  What would lead a person to do that?  Hon. Jed S. Rakoff, United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York examines that question in the above-entitled thought-provoking article (found here) in the November 20, 2014 issue of the New York Review of Books.  Judge Rakoff, both a prosecutor and a defense attorney before ascending to the bench, examines the institutional pressures that lead innocent people to plead guilty, including the threat of mandatory minimum sentences and the prosecutorial limitation of judicial sentencing discretion via charging (or not charging) offenses that carry such sentences, the imbalance of resources and available information between the prosecution and defense and, in federal court, the prohibition on judges' involvement in the plea negotiation process.  A short and interesting read. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the recommendation! I have always wondered about this. One of my friends in high school was arrested several years ago. I never knew him well enough to ask, but I always wondered why he plead guilty. Almost no one thought he did the crime, but he had his reasons. It looks like there are more pressures on the lawyer and the defendant than meets the eye.
    Jenn |