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Justice System: When a Plea Is No Bargain

October 09, 2002

Re "Deals Shift Justice Into High Gear," Oct. 5: Using a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, people accused of crimes can be forced to enter into plea bargains without full knowledge of the cases both for and against them--much like being forced to traverse a camouflaged minefield without a map.

An example from my experience as a juror: A longtime public drunkard accused (in what smelled ever so strongly of frame-up) of illegal heroin possession was offered a deal of 30 days of county jail time in exchange for a guilty plea. Had he accepted this wonderful bait, he could well have faced substantial prison time the eminently predictable next time around as a two-time "offender." As things worked out, I had the temerity to "hang" the racially biased jury, after which the heroin charge was dropped and our defendant was allowed to plead guilty to the proper charge of public drunkenness.

Ever since that experience, I have felt great skepticism about a system that offers differing versions of "justice" to people of differing bank balances.

Horace Gaims

Los Angeles

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