Do it yourself

Guest: Utah’s do-it-yourself justice system | News, Sports, Jobs – Daily Herald

Summary

When charged with a crime, do Utahns call upon fellow citizens, sitting as a jury, to decide their guilt or innocence? No way.

Of the 674 federal criminal cases resolved in Utah in 2019, according to the United States Sentencing Commission, only four or 0.6% — were decided by a jury trial. While many thousands more state criminal cases are resolved in Utah each year, it is even less likely a case will go to trial in state court than in federal court.

Instead of forcing the sta…….

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When charged with a crime, do Utahns call upon fellow citizens, sitting as a jury, to decide their guilt or innocence? No way.

Of the 674 federal criminal cases resolved in Utah in 2019, according to the United States Sentencing Commission, only four or 0.6% — were decided by a jury trial. While many thousands more state criminal cases are resolved in Utah each year, it is even less likely a case will go to trial in state court than in federal court.

Instead of forcing the state to prove their guilt in a courtroom, around 98%, or 980 of every 1,000 criminally charged Utahns, choose to convict themselves.

Trial by jury — in Alexander Hamilton’s view, “a safeguard to liberty,” is being replaced with assembly-line, do-it-yourself “justice” factories in which the accused’s defense attorney and a government prosecutor privately negotiate a guilty plea.

Reversing earlier decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court in Brady v. United States (1970), declared that a negotiated guilty plea may be allowed if, “motivated by the defendant’s desire to accept the certainty or probability of a lesser penalty rather than face … a higher penalty authorized by law for the crime charged.”

With the top court’s blessing, state lawmakers stacked the deck against defendants with harsh, mandatory minimum sentences for conviction of drug-related and other crimes. These laws tie the hands of judges but give prosecutors the power to threaten to indict a defendant for additional, related crimes in order to get a guilty plea.

At first glance, guilty pleas might look like a win all around. Defendants avoid the costs and uncertainty of a trial. Prosecutors avoid time consuming preparation for a lengthy courtroom trial. Judges too benefit by avoiding tedious courtroom trials.

But wait. A 2018 report by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Foundation for Criminal Justice titled, “The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It,” exposes the popularity of plea-mania. For the same federal crime, post-trial sentences are indeed much harsher than plea-bargain sentences.

“In 2015,” for example, “the average sentence for fraud was three times as high (six years versus 1.9 years) for defendants who went to trial versus those who pled guilty … for burglary/breaking and entering it was nearly eight times as high (12.5 years versus 1.6 years).”  The difference — a trial penalty — is the cost paid by defendants if convicted in a courtroom trial.

The report concludes, “the threat of a substantially greater sentence following a conviction at trial is a powerful incentive for even an innocent person to forego his or her Constitutional rights … [and] … it is well established that the trial penalty is just as prevalent in state and local criminal prosecutions, and that the virtual extinction of jury trials is just as prevalent in these jurisdictions.”

But at a trial, not all are convicted. In a public courtroom, …….

Source: https://www.heraldextra.com/news/opinion/2021/nov/12/guest-utahs-do-it-yourself-justice-system/