New York Times
The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved by plea bargains: 94 percent in state courts, 97 percent in federal. For defendants, accepting a prosecutor’s plea deal is less risky than going to trial and possibly being convicted on a more serious charge with a stiffer sentence.
Defendants offered plea deals need effective counsel to ensure that their decisions are well founded and voluntary, not coerced. Under the Sixth Amendment, the Supreme Court said last year, a plea is legitimate only if a defendant has had assistance of counsel while considering it.
In a case before the court on Monday, Galin Frye of Missouri clearly lacked effective counsel at a crucial stage in the felony case against him for driving with a revoked license. The state presented his lawyer a choice of pleas: Mr. Frye could plead guilty to the felony and the prosecutor would ask the judge that he serve 10 days in jail; or he could plead guilty to a misdemeanor, with a request he serve 90 days, although his sentence could be a year.
The lawyer did not tell Mr. Frye about the offer. Three months later, after the offer expired, Mr. Frye pleaded guilty to the felony and was sentenced to three years in prison. A month later, with Mr. Frye in jail, his new lawyer learned about the plea offer. Mr. Frye said he would have taken the misdemeanor deal. He made a motion in a Missouri court to withdraw his guilty plea, which was denied. The Missouri Court of Appeals reversed that ruling.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
New York Times