By The Fix
The Fix.com published an eye-opening review of the abuse of mandatory
sentence laws by prosecutors seeking to force plea bargains among
defendants accused of drug trafficking or illegal drug use. This
practice has forced countless innocent people or those with minor
offenses to choose between a few years in jail or risk “prosecutorial
punish” with sentences of up to 40 years.
Among the examples cited was a woman who refused to plead to a 10-year
sentence and ended up after trial with 45 years because the
prosecutors piled on numerous charges, including fire arm possession,
as punishment for not accepting the plea. Another woman offered a
10-year plea for possession of two ounces of crack also refused and
the prosecutors added so many other charges that, upon conviction, she
was sentenced to life in prison.
In this environment of almost guaranteed harsh sentences (90 percent
of drug cases result in a guilty verdict), is it any wonder that 97
percent of drug defendants decide to plead guilty?
In theory, plea bargains act as alternatives to costly court trials
and provide relief to an already overburdened justice system. In
practice, mandatory minimum sentencing gives prosecutors inflated and
unjustified power, The Fix article reveals.
Drug case-related plea bargains put defendants under enormous
pressure; Defendants know (or are explicitly told) that if they refuse
the plea they will most likely face an inordinately and
disproportionately long prison sentence that may only peripherally
relate to their offense.
Prosecutors offer so many harsh plea bargains to avoid lengthy trials
and to add more guilty convictions to their records. Justice, fairness
and innocence become secondary.