New York Federal Judge: Tens Of Thousands Of Innocent People Have Likely Pleaded Guilty

Prison Reform Movement's Weblog- America: Land of the Free, Home of the Incarcerated

BY NICOLE FLATOW

Gavel Handcuffs Shutterstock

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK/ AFRICA STUDIO

A prominent New York federal judge said this week that a broken guilty plea system is sending too many people innocent people to prison, coerced by the threat of long prison sentences and not enough information.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said the modern American system in which 97 percent of defendants plead guilty “is totally different from what the founding fathers had in mind.” Rakoff elaborated on his concerns during an interview with the New York Daily News, a month after he first raised the issue during a speech at the University of Southern California.

Rakoff blamed draconian mandatory minimum sentences for coercing defendants into accepting plea deals, forcing defendants to “choose between Satan and Lucifer.” He cited estimates that between 1 and 8 percent of those who plead guilty are actually innocent. Even if that percentage were just 0.5 percent…

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