The Huffington Post
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In 2006, a jury convicted Ivan Teleguz of hiring someone to kill Stephanie Sipe, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child. Now, more than a decade later, Virginia is scheduled to execute Teleguz on April 25, 2017, and there is substantial evidence suggesting that Teleguz is innocent.
How is that possible in the United States – the land of the free, where a poor person is entitled to legal counsel and a criminal defendant has numerous chances to be heard in court? Actually, it happens with some ease, and in part, it happens because of conscious choices we have made about our legal system. There are at least three reasons for this counter-intuitive reality.
1. Prosecutors, Not Judges or Juries, Resolve Most Criminal Cases in America
When most people think of criminal cases, they have visions of Atticus Finch and dramatic closing arguments before juries. In fact, 97 percent of federal cases and 94 percent of state cases are resolved through plea-bargaining. The prosecutor determines what charges to bring against a defendant, offers him a lesser sentence if he accepts the deal in lieu of a trial, and often plays one defendant off of another in the process. In most cases, criminal defendants accept a plea rather than insisting upon their day in court because the penalty and risk associated with going to trial is simply too high.
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Click here to read the full op-ed.
Professor Cara H. Drinan's
Areas of Expertise
Access to counsel
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