did someone muck with the backend here

Re: Alford Plea

1

Any prosecutor who uses the term "unindicted co-ejaculator" with a straight face should be summarily fired.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09-18-17 7:50 AM
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2

This kind of thing and what you see in St. Louis this week is a good reminder that without constant effort, the police and the court system will become just another faction with no more concern over justice than any of the people they arrest. Trump's real damage is going to happen through the courts, so I expect this will get worse.

Also, waiting until the day of the new trial to say you decline to prosecute in hopes that the guy waiting in prison will crack is quite literally evil.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-17 8:09 AM
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3

Thank you for posting this. Incredibly depressing, but important.

Also, 2 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-18-17 3:09 PM
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4

I should be commenting on this, but it's just so grim. But a good thing to post.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-17 3:42 PM
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5

You could sort of tell just from watching Homicide that the real life models did shit like this. And also from knowing something about the justice system, but still.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 09-18-17 5:45 PM
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6

I think this is different from the usual plea bargain case. The bar to get a new trial after already being convicted is very high.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-17 6:10 PM
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7

The bar to get a new trial after already being convicted is very high.

So is the bar of basic human decency. Don't prosecutors get, I don't know, ethics training or something?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-18-17 6:13 PM
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8

There's nothing inherently unethical about retrying somebody if you think they did it. That's just not compatible with offering somebody a plea of admit your guilt and walk free or face a new trial and then dropping the new trial after holding them in prison as long as you could without that new trial.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-17 6:18 PM
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9

I thought "Alford plea" must have been named after the defendant in some century-old case, like Daniel M'Naghten or Anne Nolo Contendere. It turns out it's very recent.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-17 6:58 PM
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10

just shameful and revolting. I almost don't understand how the prosecutors can regard this as enough of a "win" to be worth preserving


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 09-18-17 7:56 PM
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11

7: if so it doesn't seem to stick.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 09-18-17 9:01 PM
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12

7, 11: Ethics for lawyers is weird. That is, there's a technical code of what's 'ethical' that's a very big professional deal, and while it's not a terrible code, it doesn't track terribly tightly to 'being a decent, moral person,' and there are elements of it that push in the opposite direction. You've got an ethical responsibility to represent your client zealously within the limits of ethical behavior otherwise, and you can read that as encouragement not to get squeamish about immoral behavior that's not 'ethically' forbidden, if it's in your client's best interests.

Not so much what I'm doing right now, but what I was doing for the eight years before this, I had to consciously remember that the state I work for didn't have an interest in winning cases, it had an interest in carrying out the laws as they were intended -- I'd find myself (occasionally. This was something that might happen every fifteen or twenty cases, not more than that) defending cases against self-represented or incompetently represented citizens who were actually right -- the state had done something wrong to them. And I would do my utmost (usually successful) to get the state to settle those even though they were winnable in court, because our interest as the state wasn't in winning cases, it was in making sure the right thing happened.

But... that's a conceptual leap, that it sounds like a lot of prosecutors don't make. They're stuck on zealous representation of their client meaning that they have an obligation to do everything within the limits of their 'ethical' code to get the conviction.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 6:04 AM
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13

12: Also, I suspect, you got your job in a normal way. If you'd been elected, and you knew that your re-election depended on high conviction rates regardless of whether justice obtained, your incentive surface would have been tilted in a different direction.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 6:41 AM
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14

But we're talking about a twenty year old case here (twenty years in which an innocent person was in prison). You can almost certainly just blame the last guy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 6:43 AM
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15

Well, I got my job through blogging connections. (Thanks, Scott Lemeui/x and Seth Far/ber!) So not exactly normal, but your point stands.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 6:43 AM
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16

Although... would voters really respond badly to something presented as 'correcting an injustice'? Letting an innocent man out of jail shouldn't offend law and order types.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 6:44 AM
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17

Voters are assholes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 6:47 AM
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18

People also don't like acknowledging that the justice system gets it wrong sometimes. In IL's runup to the death penalty moratorium in the late 90s or early 00s, a lot of people were very invested in the idea that there just weren't innocent people sentenced to death.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 7:04 AM
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19

would voters really respond badly to something presented as 'correcting an injustice'? Letting an innocent man out of jail shouldn't offend law and order types.

Even if that were so - and Moby's point is a good one - that isn't what you'd be doing. Maybe (maybe) if you were reversing unjust convictions, that might be seen as a good thing. But refusing to prosecute suspects because you don't think the case is reliable would come across very differently.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 7:07 AM
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20

But that's exactly why they did anyway.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 7:08 AM
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21

Many many years ago,* I was watching some PBS show where Justice Scalia was a panelist, and to the question about executing an innocent man, he quipped that the man was probably guilty of some other crime, so it was more or less ok. General laughter ensued.

These people are individuals with agency, sure. They're also stand-ins, each of them, for millions, if not tens of millions of people.

*I may even have been when I was in law school, back when he was fairly new, and had a reputation -- which I've never understood -- as some kind of intellectually honest explicator of the law.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 7:37 AM
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22

I've said this before, but I thought he was a better than average judge on cases where he didn't have a political motivation to cheat. He was a good clear logical thinker and writer, and where he didn't have a corrupt motivation to be a lying piece of trash, I think he mostly got things right. On the SC, of course, the lying piece of trash facet of his professional identity spent an awful lot of time in evidence.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 7:56 AM
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23

22 We're just going to have to agree to disagree on that first sentence. And the second sentence.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 8:00 AM
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24

To put it differently, I'd say he was wrong from the get-go, and when he ended up at the right result, that was happy coincidence. By get-go, I mean that the words of a statute are never holy writ, but always an approximation of an intention to create a fair and just result in a given situation. Lose sight of the entire purpose of the enterprise -- fairness and justice -- and you've got no business at all serving as a judge.

I never thought he was on board with the reason we have law.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-19-17 8:07 AM
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