Monday, February 13, 2017

A Question of Innocence

Benjamin Franklin once said, “That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer...” Sadly, that is no longer how the American justice system operates. There is a popular image of law enforcement in American culture today, of the brave district attorney fighting for the truth, whatever the truth really is. This comes with an implicit assumption held by the majority of the population that the legal system is heavily tilted in favor of the defendant. So, anyone convicted must have been very guilty. Innocent people have nothing to fear.

A few people have raised questions about Farrah’s innocence and why she plead guilty to any charges if she did nothing wrong. The short answer is the prosecution forced her into choosing between the very real chance of being wrongly convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of her life in prison, or pleading guilty to the least serious crime she was charged with. Juries are very unpredictable, moral outrage is sometimes enough if the evidence provides any doubt.

All the prosecution was required to do was add charge after charge until the risk of going to trial were so high compared to the offered bargain of probation was impossible to reject. Not only did the prosecution act legally, they acted in a way that has become perfectly normal. The complete lack of evidence did not matter. The prosecution is not required to prove anything during plea negotiations. The prosecution is not required to present or defend threatened charges in court.

This essay presents a more detailed look at plea bargaining, and the issues surrounding it.

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