“No Contest”

NBC News looks at the practice of “No Contest” pleas required by prosecutors in cases of wrongful conviction: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/end-decades-death-row-inmate-makes-agonizing-choice-n699561. The story focusses on James Dennis, who spent 25 years on death row in a case that was eventually thrown out in part because the prosecution had withheld evidence of innocence from the defense. The prosecutor required Miller to plead no contest to the original charge as a condition not to retry the case. As NBC news reports, the practice is not uncommon in claims of wrongful conviction. It allows prosecutors to keep a conviction without a new trial. The defendant, meanwhile, acknowledges there may be enough evidence for another guilty verdict but can still maintain their innocence.

Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor who runs The National Registry of Exonerations, said the offer of a no-contest plea puts defendants in an agonizing bind. “Typically, when someone has been on death row or general prison population for most of his adult life and is now offered an opportunity to leave prison right away, their family and friends and lawyers … urge them to take the plea and not take a chance,” Gross said. “Quite a few refuse.”

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