Plea Bargaining

Does the widespread practice promote justice?


The vast majority of criminal cases in the United States end not in courtroom trials but in negotiated agreements between prosecutors and defense lawyers. Plea bargaining dates to the 1800s and has often been controversial. Law-and-order advocates say the practice lets criminals get lower sentences, while some defense lawyers and civil libertarians say it coerces defendants to give up their legal rights. Most prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges, however, say the practice helps produce justice while reducing strains on the court system. Defense lawyers last year cheered a court ruling that would have barred prosecutors from offering leniency in exchange for a defendant's testimony against accomplices. But prosecutors celebrated last month when the ruling was overturned.

Boxer Mike Tyson was sentenced to a year in jail ...

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