Federal District Court Judge (NY-Manhattan) Jed Rakoff offered some provocative thoughts about the pressures facing targets of criminal investigations and the role prosecutors play in creating strong incentives to accept plea deals. As a judge and former defense attorney, Rakoff has a long history of observing the criminal justice system in action. Among other things, he offered this comment:
Plea bargains have led many innocent people to take a deal. People accused of crimes are often offered five years by prosecutors or face 20 to 30 years if they go to trial. … The prosecutor has the information, he has all the chips … and the defense lawyer has very, very little to work with. So it’s a system of prosecutor power and prosecutor discretion. I saw it in real life [as a criminal defense attorney], and I also know it in my work as a judge today.
More of Rakoff’s thoughts on this topic can be found at USC News and Sentencing Law and Policy (Law Prof Blogs Network):