“Trial or Deal?”

That is the title of an article from the AP discussing the number of innocent people who plead guilty, usually in order to avoid the extraordinarily high consequences of mandatory minimums and over-charging. According to the AP, quoting the National Registry of Exonerations, more than 300 of some 1,900 people who have been exonerated in the U.S. since 1989 pleaded guilty. Last year, 68 out of 157 exonerations were cases in which the defendant pleaded guilty, more than any previous year.

Critics say the numbers reflect an overwhelmed criminal justice system with public defenders who have more cases than they can handle and expedience on the part of court officials, who can save the government money with plea bargains compared with costly trials.

“Our criminal justice system has lost its way,” said David O. Markus, a prominent Miami defense attorney. “For a long time, it was our country’s crown jewel, built on the principle that it was better that 10 guilty go free than one innocent be wrongfully convicted. Now sadly, the system accepts and even encourages innocent people to plead guilty.”

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