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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Courts - "Decisions Open Door to Appeals of Plea Bargains "

John R. Emshwiller and Gary Fields reported Friday in the WSJ that:

The Ninth Circuit's September decision cited two Supreme Court decisions, both issued in March, in which the high court found defendants in two other cases hadn't been adequately represented by their attorneys during the plea-bargain process.

Plea bargains "have become so central to the administration of the criminal justice system" that defendants should receive the kind of protections associated with going to trial, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

Judges and legal observers view the high court's rulings as a major shift in the standards that govern plea bargaining, a widely used legal strategy in which defendants plead guilty to one or more charges usually in exchange for a lighter punishment than they would receive if they went to trial and lost. Plea bargaining allows criminal cases to be settled more quickly and with less expense than a jury trial.

Federal and state court statistics show over 90% of all convictions come through plea bargains.

As the Supreme Court rulings percolate through the judicial system, there will be many more cases where defendants challenge their plea deals based on inadequate assistance of counsel, said David Carroll, executive director of the Sixth Amendment Center, a Boston-based nonprofit that focuses on legal representation for indigent defendants. The Ninth Circuit decision "is the tip of the iceberg," he said.

Sentencing Law Blog wrote about the piece Saturday in a post headed "One notable case showing impact and import of Lafler and Frye."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 25, 2012 06:44 PM
Posted to Courts in general