Sentencing Shift Gives New Leverage to Prosecutors

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Sentencing Shift Gives New Leverage to Prosecutors

Post by Ann - Tx on Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:23 pm

Sentencing Shift Gives New Leverage to Prosecutors

New York Times - New York

Published: September 25, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After decades of new laws to toughen sentencing for criminals, prosecutors have gained greater leverage to extract guilty pleas from defendants and reduce the number of cases that go to trial, often by using the threat of more serious charges with mandatory sentences or other harsher penalties.

Some experts say the process has become coercive in many state and federal jurisdictions, forcing defendants to weigh their options based on the relative risks of facing a judge and jury rather than simple matters of guilt or innocence. In effect, prosecutors are giving defendants more reasons to avoid having their day in court.

“We now have an incredible concentration of power in the hands of prosecutors,” said Richard E. Myers II, a former assistant United States attorney who is now an associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina. He said that so much influence now resides with prosecutors that “in the wrong hands, the criminal justice system can be held hostage.”

Read more:

Jason Henry for The New York Times
Shane Guthrie during a pretrial hearing in Gainesville, Fla. Accused of beating his girlfriend and threatening her with a knife, he was offered a plea deal of two years plus probation by the prosecutor. Mr. Guthrie rejected that, and a later offer of five years.
Ann - Tx

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