Plea Bargaining and Justice

Not too long ago I found myself facing two jury trials, one after the other, both with the same DA. We spoke about them and agreed that I’d probably win the first one and he would probably win the second one.

The exact opposite happened.justice

And that’s why most cases never go to trial … because everything is a gamble. Both sides would rather have something definite than gamble.

Some people who have no experience with the legal system have a strange idea that plea bargaining does not promote justice, when in fact it works just fine. The District Attorney asks for something way over here, I counter with something way over there, and when we meet in the middle — well, that’s probably where justice is.

Sometimes you have to go to trial. I refuse to take plea deals when they are no better than what I would get if my client would be found guilty. (This is especially true in very serious cases like murder or rape.) And sometimes my client insists on a trial, and the client’s wishes always prevail.

I advise all my clients though that every trial is a gamble. I’ve won cases I was sure I’d lose and lost cases I was sure I’d win, and every lawyer will tell you the same thing. They’ve even done social experiments where two separate juries have watched the exact same trial and have produced completely different verdicts.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s still the best system in the world. But no one should ever think that justice is perfect, that the good guys always win and the bad guys always lose, and that juries are never wrong.

(That’s one of the main reasons I am against the death penalty — I don’t believe there should be a penalty that is 100% irreversible when we don’t have a system that is 100% perfect.)

I went to court this morning ready for trial but my client decided at the very last minute to take the plea I had worked out for him months ago. He finally decided he wasn’t ready to gamble.

How do I feel about that, you ask? Well, personally, I like doing trials, and I like winning. I don’t mind the gamble.

But I’m not the guy going to jail if I lose. And that’s why it is ultimately up to my client to decide.