A Plea-Bargain Before Dying

In face-to-face conversation Dalrymple has on two occasions decried the injustice of the plea bargaining in America’s criminal justice system, something that obviously offends him. Now, in a piece at the Library of Law and Liberty, he calls it “intrinsically unjust, corrupt, and corrupting…if not quite the antithesis of, at least incompatible with, justice” and makes a detailed case against it:

The system of plea-bargaining would not be so bad if the advantages offered to the accused were minor: a year, say, subtracted from a 10-year sentence if he pleaded guilty early in the proceedings. But then, of course, plea-bargaining would not be very effective in eliciting cooperation from the accused that he was otherwise disinclined to give. As it is, where the difference is between life and death or between, say, five and 50 years in prison, the state has in effect been turned into a particularly nasty (because particularly powerful) blackmailer.

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