Ah, I can answer this question. Run of the mill criminal defendants are almost all guilty. Years of representation, I never met one who wasn't, most of them admitted it, others I didn't ask but the evidence was overwhelming. Death cases tend to be heater cases, as we call em in Shytown, meaning there's immense political pressure to get A Conviction. So just where the standards should rise, they fall. Ambitious prosecutors, public pressure, get a confession -- it's not hard, the cops are pros -- that is usually enough. A political hack of a state court judge, facing re-election, imposes death, hoping that if there is an error the appellate courts or the federal courts will fix it. Politically that is astute. Of course sometimes the confession is a phony. That realization led to the commutation of every death sentence on the late and recently convicted Gov. Ryan's watch. But the main thing is that you get the odd result that the less serious the crime, the more reliable the conviction and sentence. Most criminal defendants really are guilty as charged. Every criminal defense lawyer will tell you that.
--- joanna <123hop at comcast.net> wrote:
> So then why is it that so much DNA work associated
> with death-row cases
> shows that these people were innocent?
> Mr. WD wrote:
> >Frankly, the reason most criminal defendants plead
> guilty is because
> >they are guilty -- or at least the evidence against
> them is so
> >overwhelming they're virtually guaranteed to be
> convicted at trial.
> >The old saying amongst criminal defense attorneys
> is "God help you if
> >you have an innocent client" because it hurts a
> hell of a lot more to
> >get an unfavorable outcome in a case where your guy
> is innocent than
> >if you're merely asserting a guilty defendant's
> procedural rights.
> >To be sure, there is plenty of abuse of the plea
> bargaining system by
> >Prosecutors -- much more than most establishment
> observers of the
> >American legal system would care to admit.
> Nevertheless, it is beyond
> >naive to think (and I am not suggesting that you
> do, Doug) that a
> >substantial proportion of the people in jail,
> prison, or who are on
> >probation/parole are actually innocent. A far
> larger proportion of
> >convictions in the United States are obtained by
> violating defendants'
> >constitutional rights (e.g. unlawful searches and
> >ineffective assistance of counsel, improperly
> obtained confessions,
> >On 5/9/07, Doug Henwood <dhenwood at panix.com> wrote:
> >>On May 9, 2007, at 5:22 PM, Dennis Claxton wrote:
> >>>Personally, I'd rather see her wearing a
> signboard out in front of
> >>>one of the clubs she frequents, but I haven't
> given it much more
> >>>thought than that. I was in favor of freeing
> Martha Stewart though.
> >>Martha was a victim of the federal practice of
> trying to trap people
> >>into lying to a federal agent just to jail them,
> even if they weren't
> >>necessarily guilty of a crime in the first place.
> That's really
> >>sleazy and outrageous.
> >>By the way, I saw some stats recently about how
> few cases actually go
> >>to trial now (at the state/local level as well as
> the federal).
> >>Defendants are threatened with long prison terms
> and encouraged to
> >>agree to a plea bargain, which nets them just a
> few years behind
> >>bars. Anyone see these? I can't recover them...
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