woman takes plea bargain rather than let self-defense case go to trial

Discussion in 'Law & Justice' started by kazenatsu, Oct 12, 2020.

  1. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Here a short interpretation and summary of the story:
    A woman claims she was brutally assaulted and raped, but she did not report it at the time because she was scared. She did tell her brother and a gas station attendant though (she said in case she ended up being killed, he could report it to police).
    Later, her brother got into a fight with the alleged rapist. The brother had set down his gun and was physically fighting with the (alleged) rapist, in front of the woman, but the woman saw that her brother was losing the fight, so she grabbed the gun and shot the man.
    The judge and prosecutor refused to dismiss the case. Rather than have it head to a jury and risk a possible life sentence, the woman pleaded guilty in order to have the prosecutor and judge take it easier on her. She plead guilty in order to a get a greater certainty of less prison time.

    This is yet another example of how plea bargains can coerce defendants into pleading guilty, even though they would have preferred to take their case to trial.


    An Alabama woman has pleaded guilty to murdering a man, who she said raped her. Brittany Joyce Smith, 32, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to AL.com. Under the terms, however, she is set to only serve 18 months in the Jackson County Jail, and 18 months on house arrest. Her lawyer said that she will be let out from behind bars in about seven months because of time served.

    Smith was due to stand trial next month in the death of Todd Smith (no relation). She said that he attacked her at her home, head-butted her, choked her until she passed out, raped her, and threatened to kill her. The defendant said that she did not report this because she was afraid, but did leave the name of her attacker with a gas station attendant in case she ended up dying.

    She said that her brother Chris McCallie confronted Todd Smith about the alleged rape. Her brother put down his gun after accidentally firing it into a cabinet, and got into a fight with Todd Smith. The defendant said she fatally shot her rapist as he winning the fight, and threatening to kill them both.

    The defense asserted that the shooting was legal under the Alabama "Stand Your Ground" law. But the courts ruled against Brittany Smith. She had to face a jury.

    "My baby girl doesn't deserve this," her mother Ramona McCallie told AL.com in a phone interview. The defendant's boyfriend Michael Steele also said he believes she is innocent, and said she pleaded guilty because she was scared.

    "She was backed against the wall, afraid she was going to spend the rest of her life in prison," he said.

    The defendant faced a possible life sentence if convicted at trial.

    "In any case, you've got to weigh what you know and can control with what you can't," defense lawyer Ron Smith said. “We have no control over a jury or a judge that would sentence her."

    After Losing 'Stand Your Ground' Argument, Woman Pleads Guilty to Murdering Man She Said Raped Her, October 11, 2020
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crim...-she-said-raped-her/ar-BB19UKI1?ocid=msedgntp


    Note that because she pleaded guilty, she will only have to serve 7 additional months in prison.
    If she did not plead guilty, she faced the legal possibility of life in prison.
     
  2. Eleuthera

    Eleuthera Well-Known Member Donor

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    I think the best example of innocent people pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit was the case of the Central Park Five.

    Malfeasance on a grand scale by police and prosecutors put innocent youngsters in prison for years.
     
  3. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Sorry, but I don't think that was the best example. But I don't want to get too off-topic here.
     
  4. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    You know, in some of these plea bargain cases, I am okay with the defendants being sentenced to prison time.

    What I do not like is that they are basically being forced to plead guilty to very serious charges and the prosecutor wields complete control over that, could easily get them to plead guilty to minor charges over things which they absolutely did not do.

    I wish there was a way for the laws to be less "black & white", like maybe charged with "possible homicide" instead of "homicide". That would express some substantial doubts they had done it, but still allow them to be sent to prison for a while. Because I think there are many situations where there should be some punishment even though we are not fully sure whether they did it.

    What I mean is, if there was a charge that existed called "possible homicide", there might be some situations where I as a jury member would refuse to vote "guilty" to "homicide", knowing that the defendant could have been charged with "possible homicide".
     
  5. Eleuthera

    Eleuthera Well-Known Member Donor

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    What you describe is really the purpose of a jury of one's peers. The jury was designed to be the conscience of the community. It was designed to consider all the facts and come up with a just verdict.

    Should a person be convicted, the purpose of a judge is to deliver a just verdict.

    Sadly we have devolved into a nightmare by Kafka. The jury has become a rubber stamp for prosecutors who cannot tell, or do not care, the difference between right and wrong.
     
  6. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    The problem is the laws themselves do not always give the jury the opportunity to have the proper input they should.

    For example, I as a jury member might believe you should be punished because you might have done something (and it would be prudent not to let anyone escape punishment in that situation) but I do not believe you should be punished as if we know for certain you did that thing.
    Under the current way the laws work, I might only have two choices: set you free, or find you guilty and hope that the judge imposes the light sentence that is appropriate, with no control at all over exactly how that is going to work out.

    That's if it even goes to a jury. They are usually scared into a plea bargain.
    The vast majority of convictions never have a trial. Ironically only the people who are accused of committing the very worst crimes are likely to have a trial, because there is nothing for them to lose.
    And if there's a high chance they might not have done it, it still is more likely not to go to trial, because they will be offered a plea bargain.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2020
  7. Eleuthera

    Eleuthera Well-Known Member Donor

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    To borrow from the Dickens' character, the law sir is an ass.

    That is, there are more illegitimate laws written by legislatures than there are legitimate laws.

    Another function of the jury is to judge the law in question, and to acquit in cases where the law is illegitimate. That is well established precedent from the beginning of this Republic.

    www.FIJA.org
     
  8. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    This may sound difficult to imagine for most people, but I think many prosecutors become almost completely desensitized, because they put so many people away to prison for so long, every day as part of their routine job.
    For some of them it becomes just like a game, and they try to win. And unfortunately their career trajectory is likely to benefit more from winning than from them being "fair".

    You can often see the lawyers from both sides joking around, laughing, being congenial and relaxed without seemingly a care in the world, while the defendant in the courtroom is facing the possibility of life in prison.
    The public defenders are involved in so many cases that they know the prosecutors on a first name basis.
    If the accused gets hauled out of the courtroom sentenced to 50 years, the defense attorney isn't going to bat an eyelid.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2020
    Eleuthera likes this.
  9. Eleuthera

    Eleuthera Well-Known Member Donor

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    They have no conscience. They do not know or do not care about the difference between right and wrong. They do not care about justice.

    I happen to be involved as a witness is just such a case.

    Years ago an excellent expose about that was done in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette way back in 1998. Bill Moushey was the author, and its title was "Win At All Costs". You might like reading it if you can find it. I still have the paper version of it.
     

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