Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.
Proposed amendment: "Except in the Bronx, New York."
The NY Times continues it profile of the broken justice system in the Bronx: Justice Denied.
The article follows the experience of one Iraq war veteran who was arrested fro possession of marijuana who was innocent and did not want to accept a plea:
The whole system had made it clear, he said, that if he pleaded guilty, he would not have to keep coming to court. But he had turned down a string of ever-sweeter plea offers over 15 months after his arrest in August 2011. “I said: ‘No. Why would I do that? I am not guilty.’ ...
In lower-level cases... defendants who have been found guilty of nothing miss jobs and school to return repeatedly to court until they give up and plead guilty to something. The ordeal of going to court has become the new price of being arrested — even more so than the minor sanctions that usually come with low-level charges.
“The process is the punishment”
In Miami what we say is "You can beat the rap but you cannot beat the ride."
And therein lies the rub.
The justice system everywhere is evolving into a endurance match designed to break down the accused into an accepting a plea from a court system not funded to provide the accused his or her day in court.
A side effect of this, at least in Miami, is the trial tax. Should an accused be so imprudent as to file a motion or request a jury trial the plea offer goes through the roof.
Rumpole practice tip #19: Be aware of Wilson v. State, 845 So.2d 142 (Fla. 2003):
However, just as a trial judge cannot punish a defendant for exercising his or her appellate rights, see Pearce, 395 U.S. at 723-24, 89 S.Ct. 2072, “[t]he law is clear that any judicially imposed penalty which needlessly discourages assertion of the Fifth Amendment right not to plead guilty and deters the exercise of the Sixth Amendment right to demand a jury trial is patently unconstitutional. ..
However, just as a trial judge cannot punish a defendant for exercising his or her appellate rights, see Pearce, 395 U.S. at 723-24, 89 S.Ct. 2072, “[t]he law is clear that any judicially imposed penalty which needlessly discourages assertion of the Fifth Amendment right not to plead guilty and deters the exercise of the Sixth Amendment right to demand a jury trial is patently unconstitutional.
We save our solutions for another day, but this much is clear:
1) In Miami, and probably in most other state courts, the court system is underfunded.
2) This in turn imposes a non-legal systemic burden on defendants that want to fight their charges, including parking costs, interminable long lines to enter the courthouse, excessive delays and new court hearings.
3) The repetitive process requires the defendant to endure the entire process again and again, wearing down their resistance, and resulting in lost wages that most defendants cannot afford, for those lucky enough to have a job.
4) There is a direct relationship between economic standing and the effects of 1-3. The wealthier the defendant, the more likely they can hire counsel to help them navigate the justice system and alleviate the delays and burdens.
The end result: more poor people end up pleading to misdemeanors and less serious felonies.
One final thought we will expound upon at another time: while the system cheapens the value of any conviction because most convictions represent a negotiation by a defendant who can ill afford the costs and delays, the system does not devalue that conviction in the context of a prior record.
What that means in English is that come sentencing, a judge will not look at a string of convictions for drug possession and theft and resisting with or without violence and recognize it for anything other than a pattern of illegal conduct. There is no recognition that a broken system rigged against the defendant, and not facts and real criminal conduct produced those convictions.
Coming soon: the fix.
See You In Court.
See You In Court.