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Title: Florida Man Jailed 41 Days Over 92 Grams of...Laundry Detergent
Source: Reason
URL Source: https://reason.com/blog/2019/01/30/ ... n-jailed-41-days-over-92-grams
Published: Jan 30, 2019
Author: Joe Setyon
Post Date: 2019-02-04 06:42:45 by Deckard
Keywords: None
Views: 1840
Comments: 92

Spoiler alert: It wasn't heroin.

Screenshot via WPEC; Anetlanda/Dreamstime.com

A Florida man spent 41 days behind bars after police found a powdery white substance in his van last month. Spoiler alert: It wasn't drugs.

Matthew Crull, 28, of Port St. Lucie, was sitting in his newly purchased van on December 5 when Martin County Sheriff's Office deputies arrived at the KFC parking lot where he had fallen asleep. Someone had reported the vehicle as suspicious, so police were investigating.

When deputies searched his van, they found marijuana, a beer in the cup holder, and a bag with 92 grams of a white powder in it. Deputy Steven O'Leary claimed to have conducted a field drug test on the powder, and said it tested positive for heroin.

"I just looked at him baffled and confused because I had no idea as to where 92 grams of heroin came from inside my van," Crull told WPTV later.

"I really freaked out," he added to WBPF. "I started panicking and didn't really know what to think."

Crull was right to be surprised. He says the alleged heroin was actually laundry detergent. But the truth wouldn't come out until much later. After his arrest, Crull was jailed for 41 days and charged with trafficking heroin. Due to the severity of the charges, there was no way he could afford bond.

"It made the situation very real. [The judge] raised my bond to $100k to half a million dollars, so there was really no way I was getting out of jail," he told WPEC. Crull admits that he's been in trouble with the law before, but nothing this serious. "In the past, when I have gone to jail, it's been something where I knew I wasn't going to be there forever. It's a lot different than going to jail and the charge of trafficking of heroin carries a penalty of 25 years in prison," he explained to WPTV.

Crull was eventually released, though not before he spent Christmas and New Year's behind bars, after the sheriff's office tested the "heroin" again and discovered the truth. The trafficking charge was dropped, as was the count of marijuana possession.

This sort of story is more common than you might think. Reason has previously written about police misidentifying cotton candy and donut glaze for meth. In another case, North Carolina police bragged about a massive fentanyl bust, only to learn later that they had confiscated 13 pounds of sugar. The culprit in each of these cases were field test kits that provided false positives. Washington Post journalist (and former Reason staffer) Radley Balko even has a handy list of some of the things misidentified as drugs by field tests.

Crull's case, meanwhile, may have been part of a larger scandal that had nothing to do with malfunctioning field drug tests. The arresting deputy, O'Leary, has been fired after the sheriff's office discovered other discrepancies. In three recent narcotics arrests, O'Leary claimed field tests had revealed drugs. Further crime lab testing revealed that wasn't true.

O'Leary, who had been a Martin County sheriff's deputy since February 2018, had made about 80 drug arrests before being terminated. All of those are now under review, and 11 people, including Crull, have already been freed.

"It would have been a travesty to risk leaving anyone in jail," Sheriff William Snyder said at a press conference Monday, explaining that some of those released did have drugs in their possession, just not as much as O'Leary had initially claimed.

"It's better that 100 guilty people go free than one innocent person goes to jail," Snyder added. "Our goal is always justice, and there was more than enough reasonable doubt on our part on all those arrests that we would not have left anyone in jail one more minute." (1 image)

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Begin Trace Mode for Comment # 54.

#35. To: Deckard, misterwhite (#0)

Deputy Steven O'Leary claimed to have conducted a field drug test on the powder, and said it tested positive for heroin.

Perform that same test in court, under oath, and if it doesn't come up positive, give the "hero" deputy's house to his victim. His car too, if it isn't a piece of shit.

If the "hero" deputy objects, do it anyway, plus shoot his dog.

Hank Rearden  posted on  2019-02-05   16:39:57 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


#40. To: Hank Rearden (#35)

Perform that same test in court, under oath, and if it doesn't come up positive, give the "hero" deputy's house to his victim.

It could have been a faulty test kit. You blame the cop for that?

Retest it in a lab and if the original test was a false positive, drop the charge. I believe that's the procedure.

misterwhite  posted on  2019-02-06   10:43:20 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


#42. To: misterwhite (#40)

Retest it in a lab and if the original test was a false positive, drop the charge. I believe that's the procedure.

Only it takes 42 days, or sometimes, 5 years for them to get around to doing that. One woman was basically extorted into taking a plea deal over a white crumb in her car which ruined her career with a felony conviction, and it took that long for the lab to do the real test and determine it was not what the field test said it was.

I remember Nolu Chan seemingly not wanting to blame the legal system as broken for that, blaming instead the woman for not voluntarily remaining in jail, rejecting the advice of her court appointed attorney, taking it to court and risking years in prison, all without knowing the full ramifications of taking the plea deal. And that while she was aware of the possibility it was a piece of crack cocaine belonging to a hitchiker she had in the car at the time who denied any wrong doing.

Yes, a wonderful system we have her. Let's continue to use these faulty field test kits that cannot even be admitted in court to totally screw over people's lives.

Pinguinite  posted on  2019-02-06   12:52:39 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


#50. To: Pinguinite, misterwhite (#42)

[misterwhite #40]

Retest it in a lab and if the original test was a false positive, drop the charge. I believe that's the procedure.

[Pinguinite #42]

Only it takes 42 days, or sometimes, 5 years for them to get around to doing that. One woman was basically extorted into taking a plea deal over a white crumb in her car which ruined her career with a felony conviction, and it took that long for the lab to do the real test and determine it was not what the field test said it was.

I remember Nolu Chan seemingly not wanting to blame the legal system as broken for that, blaming instead the woman for not voluntarily remaining in jail, rejecting the advice of her court appointed attorney, taking it to court and risking years in prison, all without knowing the full ramifications of taking the plea deal. And that while she was aware of the possibility it was a piece of crack cocaine belonging to a hitchiker she had in the car at the time who denied any wrong doing.

It did not take 5 years, or even 1 year, to test the sample. Albritton was arrested August 3, 2010, booked on August 4, 2010 at 3:37 a.m., and was convicted upon her plea of guilty on August 5, 2010. Following a guilty plea, confirmatory lab testing loses urgency. The lab test was performed on February 28, 2011.

There was no hitchhiker involved. The driver of the vehicle, Anthony Wilson, was her boyfriend who had no license to drive. As the owner of the vehicle, Albritton was responsible for what was found. Albritton consented to the search.

Albritton most certainly knew she was pleading guilty to a felony. She signed a waiver of indictment which read, "I am the defendant in the above felony information. My attorney has explained to me my right to be prosecuted by grand jury indictment, which I hereby waive, and I consent to the filing of the above felony information."

And there is the incident report:

Incident Report:
EVIDENCE:
OFFICER HELMS FOUND THE CRACK ROCK ON THE PASSENGER FRONT SEAT FLOOR BOARD AND TOOK CUSTODY OF THE EVIDENCE. I FOUND THE UNKNOWN POWER (sic) IN THE CENTER CONSUL (sic) AND THE USED NEEDLE HIDDEN IN BETWEEN THE LINING OF THE ROOF ON THE DRIVERS SIDE. OFFICER HELMS

You do not remember what nolu chan said in 2016. You misremember. As I noted in 2016:

The defendant's profession of innocence plays no role in explaining the legal alternatives and explaining an offered plea bargain. In this case, he [the appointed lawyer] should have explained that she could take 45 days or plead not guilty and possibly do several years, depending on the confirmatory drug test. Her professions that the drugs belonged to the boyfriend speak to her expectation that the presumptive drug test would be confirmed. It was her car. She got arrested because the evidence was found in her car. If the evidence were to be confirmed, she could/would be convicted.

If she pleaded not guilty and waited for the confirmatory drug test result, there is no guarantee the 45-day offer would still be there.

Albritton sued for damages in Federal district court in 2016. Her suit for damages was dismissed on the merits, with prejudice, on 28 March 2017.

Albritton et al v. The City of Houston, Texas et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston), 4:16-cv-02662, Doc 31, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER (28 March 2017)

[Excerpt at 13-14]

Albritton premises the County's liability on the District Attorney's Office's use of unreliable evidence as part of its actual prosecution and conviction of Albritton, its lack of appropriate policies related thereto, and its offer of a plea bargain to Albritton. These allegations involve "classic law enforcement and investigative functions" carried out by the District Attorney's Office in its prosecutorial capacity as an agent of the state. Id. at 855. Accordingly, Albritton's claims against the County are subject to dismissal.

[Excerpt, ORDER at 19]

For the foregoing reasons, it is

ORDERED that Defendants City of Houston and David Helms's Motion to Dismiss (Document No. 10) , Defendants Harris County, Texas and Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6) (Document No. 13), Defendant Due Nguyen's Motion to Dismiss (Document No. 19), Defendants City of Houston, David Helms, and Due Nguyen's Supplemental Motion to Dismiss (Document No. 27), and Defendants Harris County, Texas and Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos's Supplemental Motion to Dismiss (Document No. 28) are GRANTED and Plaintiffs' claims against all Defendants are DISMISSED on the merits with prejudice. A Final Judgment will be entered separately.

nolu chan  posted on  2019-02-07   18:32:23 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


#51. To: nolu chan (#50)

It did not take 5 years, or even 1 year, to test the sample. Albritton was arrested August 3, 2010, booked on August 4, 2010 at 3:37 a.m., and was convicted upon her plea of guilty on August 5, 2010. Following a guilty plea, confirmatory lab testing loses urgency. The lab test was performed on February 28, 2011.

Okay, great. I stand corrected.

But then they didn't bother to notify Albritton until July 29 2014, about 3.5 years AFTER they discovered she was innocent, and almost 4 years after the ordeal began.

www.nytimes.com/interacti...ent-Innocence-letter.html

And if the account of an investigative journalist is correct, it was that journalist that was the first inform Albritton of the formal lab results, not the prosecutor's office. So all in all there is/was still a FUBAR situation within the state's legal system.

This appears to be a reasonably factual rundown on all that happened which mentions not only Albritton but a few hundred others who took plea deals in cases where subsequent tests found no drugs were present from this one jurisdiction.

trofire.com/2016/07/11/di...ar-drugs-false-positives/

By your own postings, Albritton was told that if she plead guilty, she would receive a much lighter sentence. That in spite of the fact that when people are asked by a judge about their state of mind in relation to pleading guilty, they are supposed to be doing so WITHOUT it being in exchange for anything whatsoever. So if in her case, if she affirmed that, then she flat out lied to the judge when she did so. And she lied to the judge because it was required to save herself from years in prison.

And anything and everything she signed and/or confessed to in official legal documents was done done *under coercion*. Now you can pretend that there was no coercion there if you want and cite the court verdict, but that is simply living in denial. Just because the courts are obligated to pretend that the papers she signed were signed honestly without coercion doesn't mean there wasn't any coercion because everyone knows it's there.

EVERYONE who pleads guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence lies when they say they are doing so freely and NOT in exchange for something.

It is all a total farce. I know it, prosecutors know it, those taking plea deals know it, and the judges know it too. But on paper it looks good so that's why it's required. You seem to be the only one that is in denial as you essentially treat the legal system as a priest would treat his religion. And I'm totally serious about that. I totally respect you for your desire for accuracy in all legal matters, but at the same time, I do criticize you for failing to recognize that the system, quite often, fails and does so in a manner that is not the fault of the people who are wrongly convicted EVEN IF they take a plea deal. This is a case of "the customer is always right" and the customers are the average people, like Albritton.

And it failed Albritton along with hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of people.

Pinguinite  posted on  2019-02-07   22:32:00 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


#54. To: Pinguinite (#51)

And if the account of an investigative journalist is correct, it was that journalist that was the first inform Albritton of the formal lab results, not the prosecutor's office. So all in all there is/was still a FUBAR situation within the state's legal system.

As you know, she moved and left no forwarding address. A copy was mailed to Albritton's last known address and was found to be undeliverable. Albritton showed no interest in obtaining the lab results.

By your own postings, Albritton was told that if she plead guilty, she would receive a much lighter sentence.

The offered deal was for a 45 day sentence which is what she got. She served 21 days. Going to trial offered no time at all if not convicted, or likely 2 years if found guilty.

EVERYONE who pleads guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence lies when they say they are doing so freely and NOT in exchange for something.

It is all a total farce. I know it, prosecutors know it, those taking plea deals know it, and the judges know it too. But on paper it looks good so that's why it's required. You seem to be the only one that is in denial as you essentially treat the legal system as a priest would treat his religion.

I try to say what the law actually is, not what it should be. Disposing of most case by plea bargain IS the system.

nolu to Pinguinite, #19 of July 28, 2016; Pinguinite plea bargain

https://www2.libertysflame.com/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=47033&Disp=19#C19

From the 2016 thread:

#19. To: Pinguinite, goldilucky (#18)

I can understand that such a bitter pill is hard for you to swallow as you seem to regard the legal system with something akin to religious piety.

You would probably be able to respond more intelligently if you read what you are responding to. As I said,

You tried to blame an imaginary system failure on the defense counsel and that effort fell flat as the defense counsel has very little authority in the matter. Indeed, your fallback position is to not identify any failure in the system but to claim the woman was innocent and conclude the system failed. You fail to see that the system worked exactly as it has been designed and is intended to work. That may explain your frustration in attempting to identify the person responsible for the alleged failure. I did not just endorse the system, but I will not say it failed when it worked as designed. It is designed to impel the vast majority of defendants to waive trial and plead guilty.

It is your profound lack of knowledge of the system, and your ostrich-like living in denial, that leads you to make damfool claims that you would have advised Albritton to go to trial, and if convicted, you would expect the judge to go easy on her and just let her go. It even led you to falsely claim that the defense attorney must have failed to do his job, but when confronted, you could not support your baseless contention and now engage in your inane and spurious change of subject further demonstrating only that you do not understand how the system is designed to work, and how it does work.

I'll pound on this fact and this fact is very clear.

She was innocent of the crime she was accused of committing, and for which she received a felony conviction.

You seem to forget that Albritton pleaded guilty.

Your misbegotten attempt to blame the defense counsel only indicated that you did not understand the system. Your ridiculous claim of a system failure reveals that you have no read and learned.

Only a deaf person has not heard prosecutors cal for a level playing field. Now they have more than a level playing field—for defendant and defense counsel it is an uphill slog with advantage to the prosecution.

I did not pull statistics out of my ass. I pulled them out of the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court in Missouri v. Frye, No. 10-444 (21 Mar 2012), 566 U.S. ___ (2012), slip op at 7.

Ninety-seven percent of federal convictions and ninety-four percent of state convictions are the result of guilty pleas. See Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online, Table 5.22.2009, http://www.albany.edu/sourcebook/pdf/t5222009.pdf (all Internet materials as visited Mar. 1, 2012, and available in Clerk of Court’s case file); Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, S. Rosenmerkel, M. Durose, & D. Farole, Felony Sentences in State Courts, 2006-Statistical Tables, p. 1 (NCJ226846, rev. Nov. 2010), http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/fssc06st.pdf; Padilla, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 15) (recognizing pleas account for nearly 95% of all criminal convictions).

Ibid.

Because ours “is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials,” Lafler, post, at 11, it is insufficient simply to point to the guarantee of a fair trial as a backstop that inoculates any errors in the pretrial process. “To a large extent . . . horse trading [between prosecutor and defense counsel] determines who goes to jail and for how long. That is what plea bargaining is. It is not some adjunct to the criminal justice system; it is the criminal justice system.” Scott & Stuntz, Plea Bargaining as Contract, 101 Yale L. J. 1909, 1912 (1992). See also Barkow, Separation of Powers and the Criminal Law, 58 Stan. L. Rev. 989, 1034 (2006) (“[Defendants] who do take their case to trial and lose receive longer sentences than even Congress or the prosecutor might think appropriate, because the longer sentences exist on the books largely for bargaining purposes. This often results in individuals who accept a plea bargain receiving shorter sentences than other individuals who are less morally culpable but take a chance and go to trial” (footnote omitted)). In to­day’s criminal justice system, therefore, the negotiation of a plea bargain, rather than the unfolding of a trial, is almost always the critical point for a defendant.

95% of convictions result from a guilty plea. If that fell to just 90%, you would have to double the courts, judges, juries, lawyers, and others.

Quite obviously, there is a significant government interest in keeping 95% of convictions resulting from guilty pleas. Such statistics can only be maintained by the demonstrated probability of far more severe outcomes resulting from trial convictions.

There are about 2 million people incarcerated. If 5% resulted from trial conviction, that would be 100,000 processed via trial to conviction. Without guilty pleas, there would be a backlog of 1,900,000. Inducement to plead guilty leads to a system that works like a cattle call.

https://www.propublica.org/article/common-roadside-drug-test-routinely-produces-false-positives

The officers allowed her to make a collect call on the coinless cellblock pay phone. She had a strained relationship with her father and with her son’s father as well; instead she dialed Doug Franklin, an old friend who once dated her sister. No one answered. Near dawn the next morning, guards walked Albritton through a tunnel to the Harris County criminal-justice tower’s basement, where they deposited her in a closet-size holding room with another woman, who told Albritton that she had murdered someone. Albritton prayed someone would explain what would happen next, tell her son she was alive and help her sort out the mess. She had barely slept and still hadn’t eaten anything. She heard her name called and stepped forward to the reinforced window. A tall man with thinning hair and wire-rim glasses approached and introduced himself as Dan Richardson, her court-appointed defense attorney.

Of Dan Richardson, her court-appointed attorney, Albritton said: “You could tell he was very rushed, busy.”

Richardson told Albritton that she was going to be charged with possession of a controlled substance, crack cocaine, at an arraignment that morning. Albritton recalls him explaining that this was a felony, and the maximum penalty was two years in state prison. She doesn’t remember him asking her what actually happened, or if she believed she was innocent. Instead, she recalls, he said that the prosecutor had already offered a deal for much less than two years. If she pleaded guilty, she would receive a 45-day sentence in the county jail, and most likely serve only half that.

Albritton told Richardson that the police were mistaken; she was innocent. But Richardson, she says, was unswayed. The police had found crack in her car. The test proved it. She could spend a few weeks in jail or two years in prison. In despair, Albritton agreed to the deal.

Albritton was escorted to a dark wood-paneled courtroom. A guilty plea requires the defendant to make a series of statements that serve as a confession and to waive multiple constitutional rights. The judge, Vanessa Velasquez, walked her through the recitation, Albritton recalls, but never asked why she couldn’t stop crying long enough to speak in sentences. She had managed to say the one word that mattered: “guilty.”

Ms. Albritton joined the cattle call and pleaded guilty. She entertained no evidence faith that she would be found innocent. They dangled 45-days at her and she jumped at it. That was not a failure of the system, as you like to see it. That is the system. Her case was disposed of quick time with her consent. This is not some failure of the system; it is how the system works in 95% of the cases. Wake up and open your eyes and mind to the real world.

Oh wait. Never mind. Ms. Albritton was not alone when it came time for a professedly innocent defendant to take a plea.

From September 14, 2004

Some five hours after this all began, I was brought out of the cell to go see the 'commissioner'. I was charged with five counts. Three were traffic infractions: Driving without headlights on, Driving without a license, and Refusal to provide registration on demand. The fourth was a criminal misdemeanor: Obstruction of Justice. The fifth was a so-called 'common law' offense: Refusal to obey a reasonable/lawful order.

The commissioner noted that I was actually already in their database as having a suspended license for nonpayment of the traffic fine from 1999. She informed me that the state may amend the charge of driving without a license, but with reasonable time for me to prepare. Cool. That made the charge of driving without a license defective, though it also meant that I needed to keep this incident off my LWAN (Life Without a Number) emailing list until after the trial.

I did not expect the criminal charges. The obstruction charge was criminal and carried a max 60 day penalty. The reasonable/lawful order charge, as a 'common law' offense carried no max penalty defined by statute, meaning it was merely up to the judge or the judicial collective to define what was reasonable.

From October 1, 2004

The charges were read and I was told I had a right to an attorney. I waived it. I was asked to enter a plea. I said not guilty. I was told I had a right to a jury trial due to the common law charge which carried no statutory penalty limitation. In Maryland, any charge carrying a penalty greater than 6 months causes the court to recognize the right to a jury trial, and with common law offenses, the judge told me a 20 year penalty was not held to be unreasonable in past cases. I was therefore entitled ot a jury trial. I was confident, perhaps more confident a judge would recognize the legal line I stood behind more that lay people so I waived the jury trial. The judge asked the prosecutor how long he thought my trial would take. He said about an hour, and it was then that I learned that four of the police officers there were waiting all that afternoon just to testify against me. Four.

They took four officers off the street, away from whatever it is they normally do for an entire afternoon just because of me. Apparently, not giving your name at a traffic stop is taken extremely seriously in these parts. I am bad, bad news.

The judge didn't want to hold up the remaining half dozen people who's business probably wouldn't take long, so I was told to take my seat. And my case was held for last.

I planed to argue my case on the facts alone. In my mind I figured I had a 50/50 chance of winning the most serious criminal charges. The judge, coincidentally, was the same judge I saw 5 years prior on regular traffic charges. A friend of mine won a 'no seatbelt' case with this judge when the citing police officer got just a little lazy giving his account of events. I felt I could predict how this judge would respond, and I could possibly win.

Finally it was time. By now it was about 4:30 PM, which is the closing time for the courthouse. The room was about empty except for those involved with my case and a friend who came to support me. I was called back up, but this time the prosecutor told the judge that he hadn't yet spoken with me because he couldn't get to everyone before formal activities began and he offered me a plea bargin. If I plead guilty to the refusal to obey charge -- the common law offense -- and the driving without a license charge, he'd not prosecute the remaining charges and ask the judge for a 'Probation Before Judgment'.

Probation Before Judgment, or PBJ, is where the judge offers the accused the chance to have his/her record free of any criminal charges. In order to qualify for that limited time offer, the accused has to waive the right to appeal and in the case of criminal matters (as opposed to traffic), usually some probation term during which you gotta stay out of trouble. Failure to satisfy the terms of probation means you get the criminal record anyway.

The prosecutor told me he couldn't guarantee the judge would grant PBJ, only that he'd ask for it, and at that point the judge said 'I'll bind myself' to giving me the PBJ if I accepted that deal.

A lot of things ran through my mind in that moment.

* If I really was going to expatriate at some point, having no criminal record was certainly a plus. Countries generally take a dim view of aliens who have criminal records. Or they perhaps should.

* I am not guilty of these charges.

* I had already entertained the idea of getting a MD driver license, as it was possible in Maryland without an SSN. PBJ means no points, whereas and the penalty for no DL in Maryland is 12 points, which is revocation. (Never mind I don't have one to revoke. They'd figure out a way to do that). Of course I'll have to drive regardless just to put food on the table, and driving revoked, according to this state's rules is up to a 1 year in jail. If I took the PBJ I could avoid the points actually get a DL.

* 'Why am I doing this?'

* It's late in the day and in extending this PBJ promise to me on a silver platter, it seems this judge wants to go home. Would he appreciate my keeping him here late when he's made such an offer, or might my proceeding to trial irritate him and serve to my disfavor?

* I thought of my web site where I knew I would be documenting all of this. With that, it's not like I'd not get to give my side of the story. I would, and all of this would come to light. Taking the PBJ however, is nothing to boast about.

* If I proceed, I've got a 50/50 chance of winning, but I'm being handed a sure 'win' of sorts -- in the form of no criminal record -- on a silver platter.

At that moment the expatriation argument seemed to weigh heaviest of all things. This whole 'justice' system is a joke and I had the opportunity to make it all go away.

I looked at the judge and in what might be my most infamous moment, said 'I'll take it'. In that instant, I gave up on my case, gave up on the system, and quite possibly, I gave up on America. In my conscience, I was innocent of any wrongdoing, guilty of no crime, but it came down to this. I could have won, but I chose instead to put my own self interests first, and chose not to fight.

What followed was a series of questions from the judge ensuring everything was above board -- standard for pleas, like if I was free of drug impairment. There were two questions that stuck in my mind: 'Has anyone offered you any promises in exchange for your pleading guilty?'

'Well, um.... yeah. You did. You promised me PBJ if I plead guilty.' I didn't say that, of course. That's not how the game is played. I would later realize that the judge probably broke protocol in promising me the PBJ. But it was time to give the lie. The answer that the system expected. Besides, it's not like I was under oath. Never in that room did I take any oath to tell the truth. 'No'.

Soon after: 'Are you pleading guilty because you actually believe you're guilty?'

I had a flashback to when I was in a Baltimore courtroom supporting a friend charged with practicing dentistry without a license (his was not renewed by the system solely for lack of an SSN). I witnessed some other defendant pleading guilty to some drug charge and the judge (I recall his last name was 'Nance') asked him that same question. Taken back, the kid of some 20 years old shook his head showing he did not actually believe he was guilty. He was apparently only pleading guilty as a matter of expediency, not because his conscience was actually troubling him. Just like me.

With a slam of a gavel Nance bellowed out 'Let the trial begin'. That kid's attorney put his arm around the kid's shoulders and whispered to him for a couple minutes. When he was done, the judge repeated the question and the kid then answered yes, he admitted he really was guilty of the charge. Nance humiliated him right then and there about how he was not going to put up with nonsense. Judge Nance was an arrogant expletive who did not belong on that bench.

I think the people who came up with this plea bargin idea, whoever they were, were concerned about the possibility of innocent people being persuaded to plea guilty. They must have figured a good way to keep that from happening was to ask all defendants these questions. That way, if anyone ever suggested the system was snagging innocent people, they could just point to the transcript and say 'See, he admitted he was guilty so the system works just fine'. If that's the idea, it is a complete farce.

Now it was my turn. Of course I believed I was innocent. The 'correct' answer, however -- the one they want to hear -- is 'yes'. Again, I took no oath in that courtroom. The expectation was to play the game. Am I pleading guilty because I believe I'm guilty? With a shrug, I replied 'With this agreement, I guess I am'. Of course, that was a most ridiculous answer as no one can agree to believe anything, and I no more believed I was guilty of those two charges than the police officer believed I was not guilty of the other three that were dropped. But my answer was apparently good enough for government work and the judge moved on.

I was told that I was also giving up the right to appeal. Perhaps that was how the system views things, but the court of public opinion hears all appeals. Always. And that's something with which I must now be content.

So, it was over and no trial ever took place. My case was never heard by the judicial system. Whether that judge would have ruled in my favor I will likely never know for as long as I live.

Let me explain something.

I think the people who came up with this plea bargin idea, whoever they were, were concerned about the possibility of innocent people being persuaded to plea guilty. They must have figured a good way to keep that from happening was to ask all defendants these questions. That way, if anyone ever suggested the system was snagging innocent people, they could just point to the transcript and say 'See, he admitted he was guilty so the system works just fine'. If that's the idea, it is a complete farce.

The reason the defendant must allocute and answer those questions is so that the defendant cannot later make a plausible claim of being so dumb, stupid, or ignorant that he or she did not understand what he or she was doing. The defendant knows he or she swore to having done the deed, he or she stated they were guilty, and said their admission was voluntary, etc. This is not done because the system has some heartwarming concern for the defendant possibly being innocent, it has a concern for the defendant having grounds for appeal because of some claimed rights infringement. The defendant does not get the deal without acknowledging that they have been informed of and provided their rights. The system figured out a good way for the defendant to document that he or she had been informed and provided their rights.

In return for some peanut butter and jelly (PBJ), the previously defiant defendant said whatever they asked him to say. And the previously defiant defendant thought damn, a PBJ just sounds so much better than the alternative. This pro se defendant did not appear to have blamed his defense lawyer for incompetent assistance of counsel. He does not blame this incompetent legal advice for a proessedly innocent defendant pleading guilty.

As for the people who came up with the system of plea bargaining, it appears to have existed in this country for over two centuries.

People v. Selikoff, 35 N.Y.2d 227, 232-33 (N.Y. 1974)

Throughout history the punishment to be imposed upon wrongdoers has been subject to negotiation (see Comment, The Plea Bargain in Historical Perspective, 23 Buffalo L. Rev. 499, 500-501). Plea negotiation, in some form, has existed in this country since at least 1804 (see p. 512). Even in England, where there are no public prosecutors, no inflexible sentencing standards, and considerably less pressure on the trial courts, a limited form of plea negotiation seems to be developing (compare Cooper, Plea Bargaining: A Comparative Analysis, 5 N.Y.U. Journal of Int. Law Politics 427, 435; Thomas, Plea Bargaining and the Turner Case, 1970 Crim. L. Rev. [Eng.] 559, 561-565 with Davis, Sentences For Sale: A New Look at Plea Bargaining in England America, 1971 Crim. L. Rev. [Eng.] 150, 223, 225). Moreover, convictions upon guilty pleas, pleas probably to lesser crimes, have been high since 1839 both in rural, where there is little trial court congestion, and in urban areas, where there is much congestion (Nineteenth Annual Report of N.Y. Judicial Conference, 1974, A-97-A-99, A-129; Moley, The Vanishing Jury, 2 So. Calif. L. Rev. 96, 107, 109). History and perspective suggest, then, that plea negotiation is not caused solely, or even largely, by overcrowded dockets. This is not to say, however, that plea negotiation is not acutely essential to relieve court calendar congestion, as indeed it is (U.S. President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society, 135 [1967]).

In budget-starved urban criminal courts, the negotiated plea literally staves off collapse of the law enforcement system, not just as to the courts but also to local detention facilities.

nolu chan  posted on  2016-07-28   0:16:41 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

nolu chan  posted on  2019-02-08   2:49:48 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


Replies to Comment # 54.

#59. To: nolu chan (#54)

Quite obviously, there is a significant government interest in keeping 95% of convictions resulting from guilty pleas.

One of the most important statistics for the head prosecutor or DA. As an ELECTED person, the incumbent will always strive to show the very highest statistical conviction rate... and the person running against the incumbent will easily win if that statistic isn’t respectable.

This is the reason criminal shitbags get such good deals... some DA’s will plea their soul away to keep the statistics that keep them elected for a career.

GrandIsland  posted on  2019-02-08 06:34:30 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


End Trace Mode for Comment # 54.

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