Nevertheless, articles like this are good for putting things into focus. The graphic showing the assessment that "Mr. Talaska needed to do the work of five full-time lawyers to serve all of his clients" is convincing and powerful.
But at the end of the day, the question is this: what are we going to do in order to replace this system? Can we effectively build an alternate system (perhaps based on restorative justice) in parallel, and then hope for a clean drop-in replacement? Is there precedent for such a thing in history?
A runaway justice system seems like such a difficult thing to fix, but I think it's becoming clearer and clearer that it's a top priority for the health and direction of the United States, if they are to survive at all.
Maybe there's some less drastic version of this that forces the state hand.
The populace will get pissed off and demand something to be done when every day crime like that is not dealt with.
Yes there is a mental health aspect with some of it, and they need proper mental hospitals with permanent or temporary care for those people who need it, but statistics show there will always be that %1 antisocial portion of the populace that will do that crap if no enforcement exists for them.
Or reinterpret what a "speedy trial" is (as would juries)
We've replaced that with a system which in some ways has much higher standards. There appear to be decades worth of appeals possible on death row, involving all kinds of experts. But the flip side of this is that most trials don't happen, thanks to plea bargains.
“An affluent society ought not be miserly in support of justice, for economy is not an objective of the system.”
Everyone will say it is not practical because of cost, but I’m quite sure if we spent half the money we do on guns and missiles (and maybe paid back some loans so we didn’t spend so much on interest) there would be enough money.
That would still allow for pleas, but would remove the ridiculous asymmetry that currently exists.
We could leave in the 30 day rule though which would significantly improve the system.
In simple game theoretic terms, it's usually optimal to take the plea bargain even if you're innocent, you've got good representation and your case is strong. A certainty of a short sentence is preferable to the possibility of your life being ruined.
Anything more is coercion to give up your rights.
The issue with this is of course that if people exercise their rights, the courts would be swamped.
DA could make a mistake; I might come up with a particularly recalcitrant jury; I might end up with an appealable matter.
Except, practically today they do punish, and practically the system would grind to a halt otherwise.
Either the courts need more money, or the laws need to change to reduce the number of accused...
"Hey, we can make this a little easier for everyone, you can stop advocating for <favorite political cause, say, doing away with plea deals> and we will reduce your prison sentence".
A fundamental part of rights is that the government can't coerce you into giving them up.
If you really want to go down this path, what would almost pass muster in my point of view is having non indigent defendants who are found guilty have to pay for the extra court resources they used. Even then I think it's a pretty clear violation of their rights, but at least it has some rational basis behind it.
Murder, sexual assault, desecrating a corpse. That was a particularly gruesome case though.
The US does tend to do a lot of upgrading charges from misdemeanor to felony, or felony b to felony a, etc. Often based on unrelated prior convictions.
I do think that the sentencing should default to concurrent for tightly related crimes, of course.
A common one in VA... Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor, but if you happen to bump into a polic officer while resisting, it’s a near automatic “assaulting a police officer” felony charge. You don’t have to knowingly/willingly assault them in the laymen’s sense, just bump them in a way that they could be injuries (actual injury not required). That felony has a minimum sentence of six months in jail, up to 5 years.
Only 3% of federal cases go to trial. Imagine having the option of 2 years in a minimum security or possibly face 10 years in a higher security prison. If you have a family, even if innocent, you take the 2 years.
Essentially, a plea bargain has less protection around it. Police can legally lie to you about evidence, witnesses, etc. Then throw you in a room with a prosecutor where you weigh risk of a trail vs what's offered, probably with only an overworked public defender to help advise you.
I believe in other countries (UK?) the police aren't allowed to lie to you about evidence, potential consequences, etc.
A good place to start is to shift the very conception of "justice" from "make the bad guy pay" to "make the victim whole." (This is your restorative justice, I believe.)
If a larger and larger proportion of society sees justice in a different light, then things will change. Juries will no longer hand down indictments or convictions for whole classes of victimless crimes. More focus will be placed on arrangements between criminal and victim that are agreeable to both parties, rather than a heavy-handed sentence from the state to "send a message."
I'm a full supporter of the eye-for-an-eye school of justice as retribution, and I still find the US system far too severe and unfair (other countries' too, but less so).
I think people just have the wrong idea about how the system works (or doesn't), how terrifying it must be to be tried for a felony even if you're innocent. And for most felonies, with the exception of rape and (attempted) murder, even eye-for-an-eye would prescribe a far lower sentence.
What's needed isn't for the conception of justice to change, but for people to realize how broken the current system is.
If you think otherwise: courts are public, go and sit in one a few hours. This idea that perpetrators can make victims whole, even partly, won't surive 30 minutes.
I agree our justice system is somewhat out of hand, but I also believe that there is a (tiny) sliver of the human population who need to be removed from walking the streets freely.
That may require imprisonment but the imprisonment should be focused on rehabilitating the imprisoned so that they can be quickly released and become productive members of society.
If an offender can't or won't be rehabilitated, only then should they be left to rot. They should at least be kept in humane conditions however.
But the judges keep convicting, keep the system going, despite the large scale violations of the constitutional rights of so many.
The government wants it both ways.
Corporations are people and money = speech.
However, if you're poor, and have no money to defend yourself, it doesn't matter because the government essentially gives you a few dollars.
They're giving you a FRACTION of a lawyer.
I don't want a court appointed attorney. If I can't afford a lawyer the courts should give me a budget to hire my own lawyer.
Those people basically have no defense, and I think if there is no budget for adequate defense, then you cannot prosecute them. I need to find out how my own large city fares in this scenario of public defender time.
You also screw over the poor because now their defense costs are doubled (on top of the obstructionism) when they couldn't afford them to begin with.
And if a defendant spends $50,000 to successfully prove that it was someone else, now they have to pay $50,000 to the prosecutor's office for falsely accusing them. Unless the prosecutor only gets the money if they win, in which case we get a whole new set of problematic incentives on the other side (make up evidence to win major cases or your office goes bankrupt), and we're back to the original problem where the rich get away with everything by outspending the government and then don't have to pay because they got away with it.
Corporations aren't involved, this is criminal law.
It seems like the demographics are changing enough that we could actually start changing our punishment (vs rehabilitation) centric justice system.
We're now close to 1% of the adult population in prison, and 2% on probation. I wonder what the percentage of "was ever in prison, or had an immediate family member in prison" is.
> Nearly half of all US adults have had an immediate family member incarcerated at some point in their lives, according to a new study.
> African American adults were 50% more likely than white Americans to have had a family member jailed
> 54% of jailed parents were the breadwinners of their families.
We have maybe 3 levels of criminal justice in America. The larger group of people who can't afford a lawyer and have an overburdened public defender, regular people who can afford a lawyer, and then rich people who can afford endless money to challenge even reasonable evidence - think any celebrity accused of a crime. Prosecutors try to plea bargain cases, and poor people probably are told by their overburdened public defender to go along with it. If a lot of those people didn't plea bargain but went to a real trial, then the public defender wouldn't even be able to go to that many trials.
One of the presidential candidates this year was a prosecutor (Sen. Kamala Harris), and she was one of those who in some cases at least didn't seem to intervene in cases where there was proprietorial malfeasance.
That would certainly bring to light the broader impact of imprisonment.
”adults age 18 to 29 reported having had a parent incarcerated at more than twice the rate of respondents from other age groups (34 percent compared to 14 percent)”
That doesn’t quite answer your question, but it seems likely to be closer to that 34% than to that 14%, unless older people somehow forgot that their parent went to jail in their youth (the numbers are from “online and phone surveys”), or the younger respondents exaggerated.
Whether it's the well known plea deal business that renders courts and trial by jury useless plea by plea; or the money public defenders earn; or the way prisons work in the US (by focusing on punishment and locking up, rather than resocialising) and so on and so forth.
Everybody deserves a fair trial. I think in the US it's even in the Bill of Rights or its amendments. You maybe fucked up in live at one point and very often it's due to circumstances that are out of your hands. But you still are a human and you still deserve to be treated with respect.