The Pernicious Plea Bargain

This unique feature of US law enables crooks to convict the innocent – that does the US great harm.

Mark Steyn on the trial of Lord Black:

Trial by jury, which is one of the most fundamental rights extending back through the U.S. Constitution to English Common Law and the Roman Empire and the Athenian Republic, is in terminal decline in this country.

It’s been replaced by a system of “plea bargains” — i.e., the state offers the guy a reduced sentence in return for saving them the expense of a trial. In theory, this is to prevent backlogs

In the Black case, the U.S. Attorney’s office spent months in investigation to get enough dope on his Number Two that they could then spend even more months leaning on him to cop a plea. The Number Two is a man called David Radler, the publisher of The Chicago Sun-Times and the executive who negotiated all the deals in dispute in this case.

He “stole” exactly the same amount of money Conrad Black did, but Black’s facing 101 years in jail while Radler’s been offered a 29-month sentence and a transfer to a jail near his home in Vancouver, which means that, under Canadian corrections policy, he’ll be out on parole after six months in a…facility that offers “golf therapy” and community theatre…

David Radler is a serial liar who’s told multiple contradictory versions of events. But the government rewarded him with decades of freedom so he agreed to tap-dance for them…

(And) Everybody in this case has been rewarded. Hollinger’s independent directors — four-time Governor of Illinois Jim Thompson, former U.S. nuclear arms negotiator Richard Burt, and the super-brainy economist wife of billionaire Henry Kravis — were threatened with enforcement proceedings by the Securities and Exchange Commission for dereliction of duty. And whaddaya know? They decided to testify for the prosecution, too!

Of course plea bargains save court time, but that’s a trivial gain compared with rewarding crooks to convict the innocent. And the US justice system has become addicted to it – even using it to prosecute the obviously crooked:

Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., was indicted Monday on 16 counts related to a long-running bribery investigation on charges including bribery, racketeering, obstruction of justice and money laundering.

two of Jefferson’s top aides already have pleaded guilty and been sentenced in the case and agreed to work with investigators.

The guy was caught with $90,000 in his refrigerator!

Most US institutions are greatly superior to those found in the rest of the world, but its legal system is a disgrace.

In consequence, foreign companies have stopped listing on US exchanges, and foreign professionals (me included) no longer touch activities that expose them to US law.

It’s hard to see what will change the system, but the US is very resilient, so we can live in hope.

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