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How much input should victims and/or victim's families have in plea deals?

radcen

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How much input should victims and/or victim's families have in plea deals?

The following is a well-known recent news story. This thread is about the concept, not this particular story, but of course this particular story can be used to discuss the concept.
Cleveland kidnapper avoids death penalty with plea deal

Cleveland kidnapper avoids death penalty with plea deal
In this case the victims are fine with the plea deal. However, you will sometimes read where the victims and/or their families are not ok with a plea deal.

What do you think?
 

ttwtt78640

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How much input should victims and/or victim's families have in plea deals?

The following is a well-known recent news story. This thread is about the concept, not this particular story, but of course this particular story can be used to discuss the concept.

In this case the victims are fine with the plea deal. However, you will sometimes read where the victims and/or their families are not ok with a plea deal.

What do you think?

Plea deals are the normal method of "justice", trials are very expensive, time consuming and often result in decreases in the charges/sentence. If all cases went to trial then the criminal justice system would collapse. If all criminal defendents were to request a "speedy trial" (per the 6th amendment) then likely well over half would be let go and could not be charged for that offense later.

Some states have victims' rights law that require a prosecutor to discuss the terms of any plea deal with the victim of the crime before making the offer to the defendant.

The Plea Bargain Stage of a Criminal Case

"The system would collapse if every case that was filed in the criminal justice system were to be set for trial," says Judge Caprice Cosper of the Harris County Criminal Court in Houston, Texas. "The system would just entirely collapse."

Introduction | The Plea | FRONTLINE | PBS

A defendant's right to a speedy trial will usually be defined by a state statute. The statute will specify the number of days or months the prosecution has to bring the defendant to trial. In many jurisdictions, the prosecution generally has 60 to 120 days to bring an imprisoned defendant to trial unless the defendant waives the right to a speedy trial. The time period is generally longer for a defendant out of custody.

Right To A Speedy Trial In Criminal Cases | LegalMatch Law Library
 

ThePlayDrive

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None. The justice system is about safety not revenge or other sorts of emotion.
 

Fisher

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I disagree. I think victim impacts are relevant as to the sentence, so any plea deal that involves a set sentence should have the victim input, even it is for the court to decide whether or not to accept it. Where I live, the courts are not required to accept a plea deal and that is a required disclosure in accepting a guilty plea--that the court can accept the plea and then impose whatever sentence is allowed by allow.
 

radcen

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I disagree. I think victim impacts are relevant as to the sentence, so any plea deal that involves a set sentence should have the victim input, even it is for the court to decide whether or not to accept it. Where I live, the courts are not required to accept a plea deal and that is a required disclosure in accepting a guilty plea--that the court can accept the plea and then impose whatever sentence is allowed by allow.

Semi-related question. I've always wondered this, but have never been able to find an answer.

Let's say a person pleads guilty in a plea deal. Then, the plea deal is rejected by the judge/court. Is the defendant still bound by their guilty plea? Or, even if they're not bound by it, can their willingness to plead guilty be used against them in a subsequent trial?
 

CanadaJohn

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I would say that the negotiation of a plea deal is not something victims should be involved in. This deal is between a defendant and the state/government - it is an agreement the defendant enters into in order to satisfy the need of the state to punish him/her for their breaking society's laws and to save the state and the victims from prosecuting a case against the defendant at great cost, both financial and emotional.

Civil courts are in place to provide victims with retribution from perpetrators and that's where victims should directly have input and should definitely speak to a jury or a judge when it comes to the penalty phase of a civil proceeding.

I feel for victims of crime, as all people do, but I have to say that the relatively recent practice of parading every victim and every relative and/or person that victim knows in front of a judge and/or jury to spew venom at the defendant really does zero in the criminal penalty phase but I suppose it does provide some "closure" for victims, but is psychological stroking the role of our courts?
 

CanadaJohn

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Semi-related question. I've always wondered this, but have never been able to find an answer.

Let's say a person pleads guilty in a plea deal. Then, the plea deal is rejected by the judge/court. Is the defendant still bound by their guilty plea? Or, even if they're not bound by it, can their willingness to plead guilty be used against them in a subsequent trial?

Here, in Canada, if a plea deal is rejected by a judge, it has no impact on the prosecution of a case that may follow and nothing involved in the plea negotiations can be used against the defendant going forward.
 

Fisher

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Semi-related question. I've always wondered this, but have never been able to find an answer.

Let's say a person pleads guilty in a plea deal. Then, the plea deal is rejected by the judge/court. Is the defendant still bound by their guilty plea? Or, even if they're not bound by it, can their willingness to plead guilty be used against them in a subsequent trial?

Well like I said, the Court cannot accept the guilty plea until such time as the person is informed of several things, including that it is not bound by a plea deal. If the plea is not accepted, then you have a trial. None of the things involving the plea are relevant to the trial because none of the questions involve did you do it or are factual as to the crime other than the charge and the maximum sentence, the right to have the case heard by a jury, etc.. Before a jury, no, but obviously if you go to a bench trial and end up with the same judge it is a little hard to unring the bell/ignore the elephant in the corner, etc. I have never had it happen personally. I always make them complete the form themselves before they step foot in front of the judge and all they have to do is respond to the questions and sign the form in open court.

Now I have been a casual witness to a case where the lawyer clearly advised the defendant of everything because I could hear him doing it; the person entered the plea; and then once they got taken back to the holding cell and then freaked out and said the lawyer tricked them once the reality of a 15 year sentence set in on them. In that case, the person was not allowed to withdraw the plea and the lawyer was not allowed to be in the same room with his client unprotected
 

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How much input should victims and/or victim's families have in plea deals?

The following is a well-known recent news story. This thread is about the concept, not this particular story, but of course this particular story can be used to discuss the concept.

In this case the victims are fine with the plea deal. However, you will sometimes read where the victims and/or their families are not ok with a plea deal.

What do you think?


Probably very little... they are too intimately involved with the situation to be objective.


However, on the flip side... plea deals are offered because the court system would be backlogged 20 years if they had to ACTUALLY conduct a jury trial for EVERY crime. Basically it is a time and money saving measure for the State, in essence. Also, sometimes the State offers a plea deal for a serious crime if they think they might lose a jury trial with their available evidence.
 

radcen

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Well like I said, the Court cannot accept the guilty plea until such time as the person is informed of several things, including that it is not bound by a plea deal. If the plea is not accepted, then you have a trial. None of the things involving the plea are relevant to the trial because none of the questions involve did you do it or are factual as to the crime other than the charge and the maximum sentence, the right to have the case heard by a jury, etc.. Before a jury, no, but obviously if you go to a bench trial and end up with the same judge it is a little hard to unring the bell/ignore the elephant in the corner, etc. I have never had it happen personally. I always make them complete the form themselves before they step foot in front of the judge and all they have to do is respond to the questions and sign the form in open court.

Now I have been a casual witness to a case where the lawyer clearly advised the defendant of everything because I could hear him doing it; the person entered the plea; and then once they got taken back to the holding cell and then freaked out and said the lawyer tricked them once the reality of a 15 year sentence set in on them. In that case, the person was not allowed to withdraw the plea and the lawyer was not allowed to be in the same room with his client unprotected

Cool. Thanks for the info. :)

Regarding the part in red... I've always thought it was unrealistic when a judge instructs the jury to disregard something that has been said. How do you "unhear" something? Even if you try to, it's still in the back of your mind. It also wouldn't surprise me if some attorney do this on purpose.
 

Fisher

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Cool. Thanks for the info. :)

Regarding the part in red... I've always thought it was unrealistic when a judge instructs the jury to disregard something that has been said. How do you "unhear" something? Even if you try to, it's still in the back of your mind. It also wouldn't surprise me if some attorney do this on purpose.

I am certain some lawyers do it on purpose. You can throw it out there and hope the other side does not object and even if they do, the jury has a hint of it and can do whatever they want with it regardless of the instructions. I don't object a lot myself unless the attorney on the other side is an ass. In criminal cases, with the same handful of prosecutors from case to case, if you give them a little latitude they return the favor. A lot of the rules are kind of a pain, like not leading your own witness and just drag out a trial IMO without really going to anything substantive. I personally think it looks like you have a lot to hide to the jury if you object at every possible opportunity which is what public defenders often do in capital cases where they have no real defense because the whole appeal will be about how you sucked as the lawyer and should have objected here or done that instead of this., and on and on and on. Those appeals are not about the defendant but about the lawyer's performance usually.
 

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I disagree. I think victim impacts are relevant as to the sentence, so any plea deal that involves a set sentence should have the victim input, even it is for the court to decide whether or not to accept it. Where I live, the courts are not required to accept a plea deal and that is a required disclosure in accepting a guilty plea--that the court can accept the plea and then impose whatever sentence is allowed by allow.

Then in this case there should be NO impact statements at all. The defendant is accepting a plea agreement to benefit the state, and tangentially himself by expecting a lower level of listed offense, a much reduced sentence, or both. If his sentence can be affected by an impact statement after he had committed to a guilty plea there isn't much point in not going to trial. Might as well drag the process out if he is as likely to get the same sentence ether way, at least he'll break the monotony of his jail time with trips to and from court.

I wouldn't see much reason to advise a client to accept a plea deal if it was no real "deal" at all.

Now I have been a casual witness to a case where the lawyer clearly advised the defendant of everything because I could hear him doing it; the person entered the plea; and then once they got taken back to the holding cell and then freaked out and said the lawyer tricked them once the reality of a 15 year sentence set in on them. In that case, the person was not allowed to withdraw the plea and the lawyer was not allowed to be in the same room with his client unprotected

Frankly I am not surprised at the client's response. Either the lawyer did not advise him as "clearly" as you assumed (i.e. taking into consideration all factors, such as client's level of intelligent understanding, chances that he would probably get a heavy sentence anyway, etc.) or did not evaluate the victim's possible impact on that particular judge's ruling history before recommending the deal. Plea deals are of little advantage to the defendant if he really gets nothing from one.
 
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Fisher

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Then in this case there should be NO impact statements at all. The defendant is accepting a plea agreement to benefit the state, and tangentially himself by expecting a lower level of listed offense, a much reduced sentence, or both. If his sentence can be affected by an impact statement after he had committed to a guilty plea there isn't much point in not going to trial. Might as well drag the process out if he is as likely to get the same sentence ether way, at least he'll break the monotony of his jail time with trips to and from court.

I wouldn't see much reason to advise a client to accept a plea deal if it was no real "deal" at all.

Well if you are guilty and have no defense, it at least lets you argue cooperation on sentencing and will save them costs associated with the trial as part of their sentence. If the state has to bring in a lab or handwriting expert from somewhere, and you are found guilty, then you are ordered to repay that as part of the court costs. Since most felony sentences are bifurcated unless the defendant waives--the plea is entered one term but the sentencing occurs the next term as a second hearing on non-jury trials-- it is a leap of faith either way. I never advise a client to enter a guilty plea as a matter of policy. That is their choice to make without me pressuring them.


Frankly I am not surprised at the client's response. Either the lawyer did not advise him as "clearly" as you assumed (i.e. taking into consideration all factors, such as client's level of intelligent understanding, chances that he would probably get a heavy sentence anyway, etc.) or did not evaluate the victim's possible impact on that particular judge's ruling history before recommending the deal. Plea deals are of little advantage to the defendant if he really gets nothing from one.
No the judge imposed the sentence in that case that was the agreed upon sentence which was the minimum the sentencing guidelines would have called upon his conviction from what I heard of it as they were asking me if I by chance had a copy of the manual on me because the Judge had misplaced the Court's copy. My understanding is there may have been some aggravating factors that they were fearful would result in him getting even more time. Prisoners have buyer's remorse on plea deals they take and blame their lawyers. That particular lawyer who is the former head of the Public Defender's Office now would be the only lawyer I would want representing me if I were ever charged with a serious crime. The best criminal lawyer I have ever seen--he just was stuck with clients who more often than not had no defense because they were busted red-handed.
 
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Captain Adverse

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Well if you are guilty and have no defense, it at least let;s you argue cooperation on sentencing and will save them costs associated with the trial as part of their sentence. If the state has to bring in a lab or handwriting expert from somewhere, and you are found guilty, then you are ordered to repay that as part of the court costs. Since most felony sentences are bifurcated unless the defendant waives--the plea is entered one term but the sentencing occurs the next term as a second hearing on non-jury trials-- it is a leap of faith either way. I never advise a client to enter a guilty plea as a matter of policy. That is their choice to make without me pressuring them.

If I recall correctly, you mentioned you were located in Texas, right? I don't think charges incurred by the state in presenting it's case are typically assigned to a defendant found guilty in a criminal case in most other states. I suppose other states may do this too, but that's seems unusual. Besides which, there is ALWAYS a defense, good, bad, or indifferent (but hopefully neither of the latter).

No the judge imposed the sentence in that case that was the agreed upon sentence which was the minimum the sentencing guidelines would have called upon his conviction from what I heard of it as they were asking me if I by chance had a copy of the manual on me because the Judge had misplaced the Court's copy. Mu understanding is there may have been some aggravating factors that they were fearful would result in him getting even more time. Prisoners have buyer's remorse on plea deals they take and blame their lawyers. That particular lawyer who is the former head of the Public Defender's Office now would be the only lawyer I would want representing me if I were ever charged with a serious crime. The best criminal lawyer I have ever seen--he just was stuck with clients who more often than not had no defense because they were busted red-handed.

Oh, well in that case the client simply misunderstood what was happening and I can only fault the attorney if he did not make this crystal clear. I mean, if the defendant knew before he entered the courtroom he would get 15 years if he accepted the deal then he has nothing to complain about.
 
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Fisher

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If I recall correctly, you mentioned you were located in Texas, right? I don't think charges incurred by the state in presenting it's case are typically assigned to a defendant found guilty in a criminal case in most other states. I could be wrong about other states too, but that's the first time I've heard of it. Besides which, there is ALWAYS a defense, good, bad, or indifferent (but hopefully neither of the latter).



Oh, well in that case the client simply misunderstood what was happening and I can only fault the attorney if he did not make this crystal clear. I mean, if the defendant knew before he entered the courtroom he would get 15 years if he accepted the deal then he has nothing to complain about.

No I am not in Texas. Thank God.
 

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No I am not in Texas. Thank God.


LOL, it's cool. FYI I also modified my prior post about other states etc. Sometimes I edit right after I post and people have quoted my original comment and are working on it when my corrected post shows up. That's why my signature asks to wait a few before posting. :)
 

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How much input should victims and/or victim's families have in plea deals?

The following is a well-known recent news story. This thread is about the concept, not this particular story, but of course this particular story can be used to discuss the concept.

In this case the victims are fine with the plea deal. However, you will sometimes read where the victims and/or their families are not ok with a plea deal.

What do you think?

They should have no input, or very little. Punishment for a crime should be decided by an unbiased and dispassionate person. The victims of a crime are neither.
 

Rainman05

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Well... in a penal case, not much input at all in regards to a plea deal.
In civil cases, full input.
 

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The victims should have some input in whether or not they go with a plea deal or not.After all the alleged crime is against them not the state.
 

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For those of you that say "Justice & Emotions don't mix". You don't have a clue. In child molestation and kidnapping cases the crime is committed against more than just the immediate victim. I have been working in a "Special Task Force" that catches pedi's for over 10 years. The child that gets kidnapped is the primary victim and all the loved ones are what we call the "Fallout" victims. Imagine what a parent goes through having their child taken away by someone and not knowing what that person is doing to their child or if their even alive. Imagine the trauma that the parents have to deal with when they get the child back, if they get them back. Imagine what the parents in the OP case went through for all those years not knowing. The families ARE vistims of the crime and absolutely should be heard.

As far as the victim goes... as soon as the perp pleads guilty I think the judge should take their testimony into account and they do in some States.
 
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MaggieD

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I disagree. I think victim impacts are relevant as to the sentence, so any plea deal that involves a set sentence should have the victim input, even it is for the court to decide whether or not to accept it. Where I live, the courts are not required to accept a plea deal and that is a required disclosure in accepting a guilty plea--that the court can accept the plea and then impose whatever sentence is allowed by allow.

I like this, and think it's more fair....the idea that victims and their families would be allowed victim statements regardless of whether or not there is a plea deal. I think families just want to be heard. It gives them some sense of closure.

I'm not sure, but I think plea deals can always be turned down by the judge. It only makes sense to me, since you have the defendant standing there allocuting to his crime. He's guilty. The judge isn't a party to the plea bargain contract; that's between the Defendant and the Prosecution.

I'd think that, in some cases, victim impact statements read during the plea bargain hearing would give even MORE power to the state. For instance, in getting a defendant to reveal where the bodies are buried when he hasn't already done so.

Long story short, I agree with Fisher.
 

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I remember the olden days, those that came before the victims and their friends/families/witnesses could stand in the court and cry 'for shame!'. It was made a political football because a wave of the technocrats and activist judges have taken over the court system. There were quite a few 'shocking' examples of light plea deals for capital crimes-(no real mention of if the DA had enough solid evidence to convict on a 'heavy' charge and if not the perp could walk scot free) As well as light sentences for crimes an outraged citizenry decried.

So laws were passed to give the victims and families a chance to stand and shame the perp, as well as being informed of a possible plea deal- I think some call it 'signing off' before it is offered.

Now it appears we are cycling back away from wailing parents and grieving spouses being part of the official process.

What's old is new again I suppose.

More than a few defendants attempt to back out of plea deals, they listen to fellow inmates- now that's a great brain trust- others locked up often for being guilty of more stupid than crime! And buyer's remorse is for more than new cars and spouses, afterall solid and clear decision making isn't always part of a criminal's make-up. I can see some of them wanting to blame everyone but themselves at such times.

Now on assigning cost of prosecution to the defendant. Here in Oklahoma you can go online and see the defendants and their status in the court system. They also list the fees assigned to the defendant. Cost of lab work and a staggering amount of court costs, judge retirement fund, victim impact fund, and the beat goes on for quite a bit. I don't know if at trial the expert fees are paid for by the defendant, but have heard DAs complain the costs of trial, and that includes witnesses is draining the funds available for trail.

Is a rather silly dance to assign the costs to defendants, most are never going to pay the fees, the options are keep sending them back to prison where they clog up the system- (most just get a weekend in jail and then OR'd) or have them pay 20 bucks a month forever. (most pay 20 bucks when ever, serving petty thieves and drug users with a constant barrage of warrants would exhaust local county LE.)

Society asked for the victim to be part of the plea/sentence part of the system.

Will be interesting if they change their minds.
 
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