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How To Crash the US Justice System: Demand a Trial

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the pleading-the-sixth dept.

Government 897

Hugh Pickens writes "The U.S. Bill of Rights guarantees the accused basic safeguards, including a fair and speedy jury trial, but in this era of mass incarceration — when our nation's prison population has quintupled in a few decades — these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical. More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury, in part because the Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that threatening someone with life imprisonment for a minor crime in an effort to induce him to forfeit a jury trial did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to trial. 'The truth is that government officials have deliberately engineered the system to assure that the jury trial system established by the Constitution is seldom used,' says Timothy Lynch, director of the criminal justice project at the libertarian Cato Institute. Now Susan Burton, head of 'A New Way of Life' (PDF), is helping to start a movement to demand restoration of Americans' basic civil and human rights by asking people who have been charged with crimes to reject plea bargains, and press for trial. 'Can we crash the system just by exercising our rights?' Burton says if everyone charged with crimes suddenly exercised his constitutional rights, there would not be enough judges, lawyers or prison cells to deal with the ensuing tsunami of litigation."

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jury trials cost more money (5, Insightful)

jsepeta (412566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332697)

and my attorney advised that a trial would be more expensive, so i should just settle

Re:jury trials cost more money (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332771)

If you read even the summary, it is talking about criminal cases. In a criminal case "You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.".

Uh, no (4, Informative)

unassimilatible (225662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332793)

Only the indigent get appointed counsel, not people who don't want to spend the extra money.

Re:Uh, no (3, Informative)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332915)

Thus the part that reads, "If you cannot afford..."

Re:Uh, no (5, Insightful)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333061)

Don't worry, after a few months of litigation you too can be indigent.

That's a joke. The reality is that, yes, a jury trial is MUCH more expensive than taking your lawyer's plea agreement -- unless you calculate in your time in prison, etc.

The real issue is that you actually CAN be punished for demanding a jury trial -- the sentence will be heavier -- this is tailored as "lack of remorse" essentially -- you're still claiming innocence!? You aren't facing up to your criminal liability. Add time.

-GiH

Re:jury trials cost more money (5, Insightful)

Freddybear (1805256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332829)

You can't just say "I can't afford an attorney". If you have any money in the bank, or if you have a job, or both, you don't get a court-appointed attorney.

Re:jury trials cost more money (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332987)

Which is one reason the system is so fucked up to start with.

Just getting ACCUSED of something can bankrupt you. Guilt doesn't enter it. Just like in the civil court system, big companies mostly use the legal system as a bludgeon, burying opponents in paperwork and attorney's fees regardless of truth or merit of any lawsuit.

Re:jury trials cost more money (3, Informative)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333093)

You can't just say "I can't afford an attorney". If you have any money in the bank, or if you have a job, or both, you don't get a court-appointed attorney.

Well, if you're willing to be a test case, and willing to sit for awhile (a long time) in jail, refuse to retain a lawyer on your own dime, and refuse to forfeit your right to representation. Without refusing to forfeit your right to representation, the court likely cannot constitutionally proceed without appointing a lawyer to represent you.

Of course, you would also probably have to sue and appeal to get the judgement in your favor, which would require a lawyer...

But then I did preface all of this with "willing to get screwed"...

Re:jury trials cost more money (5, Insightful)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332941)

That's a nice rosy thought, but the ability to afford an attorney for trial has nothing to do with your budgetary capability of paying for one, it is all about how poor you are and like many social services, you have to be very VERY poor in order to have an attorney appointed for you. If you don't meet the financial requirements then the state has NO OBLIGATION whatsoever to provide you with an attorney because hey if you really really wanted to, you could not pay your rent for a month or two to keep yourself out of jail. If you can't afford an attorney and one will not be appointed for you then you are on your own. Want to go ahead anyway? Well, there are a long series of rules and procedures you have to follow in order to represent yourself in a proper manner and you have to know that the prosecution is under not obligation to help you in any way shape or form. "You didn't see that piece of evidence? Well it's been here the whole time for you to look at" etc. The american justice system is of, by, and for the wealthy and they are often the only ones that can afford to go to trial which is why more often than not they get off Scot free.

Re:jury trials cost more money (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332821)

and my attorney advised that a trial would be more expensive, so i should just settle

really?

That's really fucking sad.

Really.

Justice is only for the rich, apparently.

I don;t know what to say other than, Eat the rich.

And for you fuckers who are going to say, "I have never gotten a job from a poor person."

Well, I have. He was a poor bastard who got a painting contract and hired a bunch of us fellow poor bastards. He kept doing it. He's non rich but he's got a painting business that pays his bills and gives him a decent living and gives jobs to others when he has them.

Poor people do give folks jobs and in this day and and age of offshoring, they give more jobs than BIG CORP who will insist that they can't "find any qualified Americans" to fill their positions.

Re:jury trials cost more money (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39333039)

I think you mean the super-rich. A trial, ANY trial, can bankrupt a rich man.

Re:jury trials cost more money (5, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333141)

I haven't had mod points in a week or two. Wish I had some here.

Small businesses employ more than half of all American workers. Here's the first link I found that supports my claim, that doesn't require any special literary skills to understand: http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/nov2009/sb20091112_157141.htm [businessweek.com]

So - who in the hell ARE these small business people? Well, I was one. I went into a partnership, which was later dissolved for personal/family reasons. Poor people, who scrounge for the cash to purchase tools, equipment, and supplies, and to rent building space. Poor people who hire other poor people. And, if they keep up the struggle for long enough, and if they are smart and lucky, then they move further up the food chain, so that they are no longer poor.

I've seldom had a rich man give me a break. Poor folks are always willing to give another poor man a break! Even hardened criminals are more likely to lend a hand when you need it, than some rich sumbitch with a yacht.

Last time I checked... (5, Interesting)

earls (1367951) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333083)

You can represent yourself.

"Self-represented defendants are not bound by lawyers' ethical codes. This means that a defendant who represents himself can delay proceedings and sometimes wreak havoc on an already overloaded system by repeatedly filing motions."

lol, how applicable.

GAP (2)

pubwvj (1045960) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332701)

Precisely. This is government sponsored terrorism against its citizens.

Re:GAP (1, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333117)

Government is terrorism against its citizens.

Take a look at the headlines of today, and tell me, which ones does not follow the logic that if it is possible, someone will deem it necessary and government should require it? The logic used in most political discussions is: "We must do something, this is something, therefore it must be done!" Nobody ever stops to ask "WHY must something be done?"

Government is tyranny, whether by do-gooders on the right or left edge of the political spectrum.

And this helps us how? (-1, Offtopic)

pebbert (624675) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332705)

nt

Re:And this helps us how? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332909)

kill yourself, retard

Injustice (5, Insightful)

F1re (249002) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332707)

A plea bargain ensures that justice is not done.

Either a guilty person gets less punishment than they deserve or an innocent person gets punished when they deserve no punishment. It's a lose-lose situation.

Of course a bigger problem with the law is that ignorance of the law is no excuse but it's impossible for me to know every law and precedent that applies to me.

Re:Injustice (5, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332723)

My kingdom for a mod point.

Re:Injustice (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39333087)

There. modded you up. The kingdom, please.

Re:Injustice (1)

pebbert (624675) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332755)

So society should spend lots of $$$ prosecuting minor shoplifters stealing candy?

Re:Injustice (3, Insightful)

thebigmacd (545973) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332807)

Yes, a shoplifter doesn't have any fewer rights than a murderer...

People plead guilty without plea bargains, you know.

Re:Injustice (2, Insightful)

puppybane (120218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332955)

But surely the vast majority of people who take plea bargains are doing so because they are guilty, and because they are being offered a good deal. I suspect there are plenty who are getting screwed, and their lawyers need to stop that from happening, but it's not a vast conspiracy to deprive people of their rights. Just an attempt to save everyone time and money by not litigating petty crimes. I know a lawyer who refuses to take certain cases if his client doesn't plead guilty, because most of the time the client *is* guilty, and then he's spending his valuable time trying to keep criminals out of jail. But if the client pleads guilty, he can help make sure that the client isn't unduly punished. Most of what he does is make sure that those who plead guilty are given fair sentences.

Re:Injustice (4, Insightful)

F1re (249002) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333029)

But surely the vast majority of people who take plea bargains are doing so because they are guilty, and because they are being offered a good deal.

That's just it...they are getting a good deal and not being punished as much as they should be!

Re:Injustice (5, Insightful)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333123)

I used to do some public defense work. Here's how plea bargains often went -- your choice was to (a) accept a plea to this minor included offense, pay restitution (money) to the victim, pay a charge to the court and the cost of your arrest and court fees; or (b) go on trial for the felony crime you may have committed (questionable), risk jail time, risk major and permanent alteration in your status and rights as a citizen (i.e. no right to vote, no guns, etc).

Quick, you're innocent -- which do you choose? Remember, jury trials are a crap-shoot to start with, and the dice are loaded against you if you're brown and poor.

-GiH

Re:Injustice (1)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333081)

Actually -- since the shop lifter is probably committing a misdemeanor and not a felony -- that's not true. Likewise, the shoplifter isn't facing serious time in prison, loss of the right to vote or a duty to self-report on every employment form for the rest of his/her life (at least until you can get the felony charge sealed).

-GiH

Re:Injustice (4, Insightful)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332873)

Shoplifting isn't as big a problem as they make it. It's employee theft that's the big problem.

Re:Injustice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332779)

If every guilty person demanded a jury trial, then judges would hand down sentences just as low as those the criminals get on plea bargains. We can't completely overrun the jails and prisons.

Re:Injustice (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332957)

My good friend, it's already being done.

Re:Injustice (2, Insightful)

isotope23 (210590) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332813)

"Of course a bigger problem with the law is that ignorance of the law is no excuse but it's impossible for me to know every law and precedent that applies to me."

Unless of course your John Corzine....

Re:Injustice (2)

dougmc (70836) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332893)

A plea bargain ensures that justice is not done.

Either a guilty person gets less punishment than they deserve or an innocent person gets punished when they deserve no punishment. It's a lose-lose situation.

It removes some of the uncertainty of the process and it's a good deal cheaper for the defendant (who cares if it saves the state money -- the state obviously does, but the defendant should not). So it's not entirely a lose-lose situation for the defendant ... or the state, for that matter.

It probably makes sense in many cases for the defendant when the plea bargain is for a specific fine rather than possible jail time, but if even the plea bargain involves significant jail time I'd suggest that most people should force the state to try them (and provide a defense lawyer for them) -- which will lead to either a better plea bargain or a chance of getting found not guilty.

Unfortunately, our entire adversarial legal system is extremely broken for anybody who isn't fairly wealthy. If you're wealthy, you can afford to put up an adequate defense. But if you're not, the best you can get is a plea bargain, a crappy public defender or getting years of debt owed to a lawyer who may or may not be just as crappy as the public defender.

Of course a bigger problem with the law is that ignorance of the law is no excuse but it's impossible for me to know every law and precedent that applies to me.

Well, that's why you get a lawyer -- they should know that stuff. Of course, a public defendant probably doesn't have time or resources to properly research it ...

Re:Injustice (3, Interesting)

F1re (249002) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332999)

Well, that's why you get a lawyer -- they should know that stuff. Of course, a public defendant probably doesn't have time or resources to properly research it ...

That only helps after you have done something that might be a crime. I asked my lawyer about ignorance of the law and she admitted there are large areas of the law that she is unfamiliar with and she herself has broken some laws unknowingly only to find out later that what she did was in fact illegal.

Re:Injustice (2)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332931)

It's a lose-lose situation.

The real lose-lose situation is when they continue with a trial that costs all parties more than it's worth.

Re:Injustice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39333051)

The real lose-lose situation is when they continue with a trial that costs all parties more than it's worth.

For reference, how much are your rights worth? I price mine at rather more than the cost of a trial.

Re:Injustice (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333147)

We all do, but we're not comparing the value of rights to the cost of a trial directly. There are other variables involved.

If you are more likely than not to be found guilty of a misdemeanor with a $100 fine, would you spend $5,000 (plus time) defending yourself or would you take the $500 plea bargain?

Re:Injustice (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333157)

D'oh. *$1000 fine.

Preview. What is it?

It's not about the criminal (2)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333027)

It's lose lose if you only look at the person on trial, not anyone else affected by the crime.

There's a lot to be said about a rape victim not being made to describe in detail, in front of 200 people in court and a variety of press, how she was raped. Then of course there's the cross examination where she's accused of being a liar or a slut...

Likewise subject families of murder victims to spending weeks hearing about their loved one's horrible final moments.

The plea bargain system has it's flaws but there's a lot of good that can come of ensuring guilty people with nothing to lose don't force a pointless trial.

Re:It's not about the criminal (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333125)

I'm sure the families don't have to sit at the trial, unless they'd be called in as witnesses.

Re:It's not about the criminal (3, Insightful)

praxis (19962) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333187)

So in the case of rape we should just find the accused guilty without a 'pointless' trial rather than permit them the right to have their crimes proven? We're not talking about accused that are going to plead guilty on their own free will, we're talking about accused that are being strong armed into a guilty plea, innocent or not, because it's cheaper.

Re:Injustice (1)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333213)

Of course a bigger problem with the law is that ignorance of the law is no excuse but it's impossible for me to know every law and precedent that applies to me.

So not true. Criminal laws cannot be applied unless they are "published." In other words, unless they are made known to the public at large. There's certainly a lot of civil law that can be applied to you even if you don't know about it -- but criminal law is held to a higher standard.

-GiH

News For Nerds (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332711)

This is all very interesting, but how in the world is this relevant to slashdot's stated mission of "news for nerds"?

Injecting techy terms like "crashing the system" doesn't make it more tech related.

Remember when this place used to be a tech news site, and not a political soapbox for the editors? Yeah, I've been here way too long.

The Bill of Rights for Busy People (5, Interesting)

iter8 (742854) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332717)

Let me just point this out The Bill of Rights for Busy People [wfmu.org] . Don't worry kids, you don't need those pesky "rights" things anyway.

Re:The Bill of Rights for Busy People (0)

Joiseybill (788712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332981)

Mod parent +1 Interesting, +1 Informative, +1 ironically Funny, +1 supporting open-source Radio

Denial of Service attack (4, Interesting)

CuriousGeorge113 (47122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332733)

So, essentially he argues for a real life denial of service attack. Bombard the system with traffic until it breaks under the load.

I only wonder how the government would push back in such a situation. We've already seen the US government trample over Constitutional in the name of security, terrorism, child pornography, etc. All they need is one case where a child pedo is released due to the systems inability to provide a speedy trial, and we will see another one of our rights taken from us.

In the name of the children ... won't you please think of the children?

Re:Denial of Service attack (2)

MrDoh! (71235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332765)

You've hit the nail on the head. They'll push back and hard. The other rights have been trampled all over, this will simply be worked around too.

Just who do you think "they" are? (1)

Brannon (221550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332819)

answer that, and you'll understand a little better how the world works.

Re:Denial of Service attack (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332863)

The workaround is incredibly simply in this case: deny bail to everyone. There is nothing in the constitution that guarantees your right to bail.

Re:Denial of Service attack (2)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333015)

Denying bail is a two edge sword. It is more expensive to hold people in prison than to hold their money. You crash the system quicker if bail is denied.

Re:Denial of Service attack (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333063)

The workaround is incredibly simply in this case: deny bail to everyone.

You haven't thought this through. Denying bail to everyone makes the problem worse not better. Now all those people who are going through trial now must be held in a jail somewhere at yet more cost to the State.

Re:Denial of Service attack (1)

arunce (1934350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332825)

We've that in portuguese justice since I can remember.
I even have this trial postponed by the judge just because she nuked herself by appointing two sessions at same hour, same day.

Re:Denial of Service attack (4, Insightful)

dougmc (70836) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332951)

All they need is one case where a child pedo is released due to the systems inability to provide a speedy trial, and we will see another one of our rights taken from us

Such cases aren't rare at all. It doesn't really happen to bonafide terrorists, but people accused of "child pedo" (which could mean a whole lot of different things with varying degrees of severity) often are released without even a trial.

Criminals are released on technicalities or rights violated by the police all the time. And innocents are imprisoned because they were tricked by the police, didn't understand the situation or couldn't afford a decent lawyer all the time too.

Re:Denial of Service attack (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39333035)

As a parent of abused children, I can tell you that NO ONE is thinking of them now. The peep was arrested more than a year ago, made bail and still hasn't even been to a grand jury...
and that's for multiple felonies against children under 12. There is no justice in the US justice system.

Denial of Service on themselves (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333077)

The problem with the accused DoSing the justice system, is that they are the very ones who need access to the system. The government doesn't need to push back, they will just allow the dockets to be backed up further and further, and the majority of the accused will sit in jail for years awaiting a trial. The supreme court has already ruled on cases where people were held for over 5 years before getting a trial, and it was deemed that it didn't violate their right to a speedy trial since the delay wasn't due to maliciousness on behalf of the prosecutor.

Re:Denial of Service attack (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333145)

I only wonder how the government would push back in such a situation.

It's simple. They use the leverage they already have, namely, that they'll conduct an expensive trial and try for the worst outcome that they can manage. It is a good point that they might be able to get laws passed to increase that leverage at their disposal.

Re:Denial of Service attack (1)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333153)

Or ... they can ramp up the bandwidth, bring in more trial judges, shift lesser charges off to the magistrate judges (i.e. Article II judges, that don't require congressional approval) and of course, hire more lawyers.

Speaking as an attorney with many unemployed friends -- I endorse this idea 150%.

-GiH

Not enough jail cells? (3, Funny)

jordan314 (1052648) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332745)

I feel like calling the united states' bluff on how many citizens it's willing to imprison, despite overcrowding, is a bad idea.

Re:Not enough jail cells? (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333003)

Building jails creates construction and guard jobs...

Re:Not enough jail cells? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39333071)

And the profits from the construction and guarding fund bribes to judges [boingboing.net] to send more children to jail to increase the profits. It's a virtuous circle!

Re:Not enough jail cells? (5, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333109)

I feel like calling the united states' bluff on how many citizens it's willing to imprison, despite overcrowding, is a bad idea.

Last year, the Supreme Court ordered California to reduce their prison population by ~20% because the conditions violated the 8th amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment

Further, the prolonged recession is and has been causing States to release prisoners from jail early.
Without the funding, there just isn't enough money in the budget to pay for mass incarceration.
And without even more funding, the court system doesn't have the bandwidth to put more than ~10% of criminal cases in front of a jury.

Re:Not enough jail cells? (2)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333185)

Yeah, it's all well and good for the proponents of this strategy except for the small detail that they mostly academics and lawyers, not prisoners risking a maximum sentence.

It's kind of like the prisoner's dilemma... applied to actual prisoners for once!

If *everyone* accused calls the bluff of getting the maximum punishment after a trial conviction, the system might actually break down and they have to release lots of prisoners early (which is already happening to some extent now). If some of the people call the bluff and some don't, those that do may get their ass reamed (maybe literally) in prison and those that don't get a plea bargain.

Honestly, I think one of the braver things someone can do is violate a law they truly believe is wrong in order to get it tested in the courts. Either way they are going to get reamed by the system, and not many people are willing to sign up for that...

I can see the point, but... (-1, Flamebait)

Improv (2467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332753)

Why do we want to crash the government? It's our tool to serve the public good. It's not perfect, but we're better off with it than against it.

The libertarian hostility to civilisation is very sad.

Your "tool" is broken (3, Insightful)

unassimilatible (225662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332875)

Why do we want to crash the government? It's our tool to serve the public good. It's not perfect, but we're better off with it than against it.

In many cases, the government makes matters worse, not better. And nobody proposed "crashing the government." They said crash the "longer sentence for exercising your rights" system. Typical of anti-Libertarians, equate them to anarchists.

The libertarian hostility to civilisation is very sad.

The liberal obsession with statist solutions is very scary.

Re:Your "tool" is broken (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333143)

The liberal obsession with statist solutions is very scary.

Liberal? It's been the Conservatives at the forefront of the "fuck them, imprison them all, especially the n____s and spics" system.

What, you didn't think that sentencing guidelines different for "crack" and "powder" cocaine came out of nowhere did you? Crack is predominantly used by blacks, powder primarily used by the silver-spoon sons of the upper crust. And as for Marijuana, Texas senators are on record, "All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff is what makes them crazy"; in the Deep South, marijuana bans were a way to discriminate against blacks, and again came up the comments, like "Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice."

These laws were passed by Conservatives, not liberals. Conservatives, aka deranged lunatics like this [publicpolicypolling.com] .

Re:I can see the point, but... (0)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332879)

The libertarian hostility to civilisation is very sad.

Nail on the head! Though, I think the hostility comes from naivete. Speeding in residential neighborhoods sounds all fine and good until you realize that's where kids play and people live.

Re:I can see the point, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39333001)

If there's one thing that liberals and conservatives can agree upon, it's how to crucify a good libertarian strawman.

Re:I can see the point, but... (3, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333111)

Mass incarceration isn't a libertarian issue. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, an embarassment to the "land of the free". You should take a look of the reality you live in before you lecture others on naivete.

Re:I can see the point, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332929)

can't tell if you are trolling or naive, and apparently some of the moderators cannot either.

History has shown us that all governments exist for the sole purpose of enriching themselves by exercising control of others through violence or threats thereof. Any benefit to the governed is merely an unintended consequence of government fulfilling it's primary directive.

Re:I can see the point, but... (1, Insightful)

tonywong (96839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333019)

What is the public good? Is it in the public's interest to imprison people who want to smoke weed? 18 year-olds who are sexually attracted to 17 year-olds? I don't think people are arguing that no government is better than any government, but when you turn the screws too hard against people/group/race/religion and try to restrict their rights, they need/will find a way to push back.

When you see the number of African Americans who have contact with the penal system you have to wonder if the American people count black men as being part of 'the public.'

Public lawyers live like kings as it is (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332787)

The new courthouses are high-architecture palaces in the best parts of town built with taxpayer money, and judges get life tenure with substantial six figure salaries. Think about that... six figure income with no possibility of being fired or laid off, ever! DAs and prosecutors get defined-benefit pensions (another all-set-for-life deal) while the rest of us get (at best) 401k's.

Let's not give them an excuse to to jack up employment on the public trough.

Re:Public lawyers live like kings as it is (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332827)

I'm not sure what you're saying here. Judges can be removed. It's not easy, but then again, it's not supposed to be easy. Believe me, in the olden days when judges could be removed at a whim, it wasn't no panacea.

Re:Public lawyers live like kings as it is (1, Flamebait)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333177)

You think THAT's bad, consider the following: elected judges and prosecutors = assholes who have a built-in reason to pad their "conviction rate" and "tough sentencing" as much as possible, especially in racist ass states like Texas.

Nullify! Jury Nullification (5, Insightful)

isotope23 (210590) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332791)

Not only demands for Jury Trials -

Occupy should start the Nullify movement - E.G. if you are on a jury refuse to return a guilty verdict for victimless BS charges.

It is your right and DUTY to judge not only guilt or innocence but also the merit of the law itself.
Fully Informed Jury Association -

http://fija.org/ [fija.org]

Re:Nullify! Jury Nullification (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332869)

Not only demands for Jury Trials -

Occupy should start the Nullify movement - E.G. if you are on a jury refuse to return a guilty verdict for victimless BS charges.

It is your right and DUTY to judge not only guilt or innocence but also the merit of the law itself. Fully Informed Jury Association -

http://fija.org/ [fija.org]

Now this is perhaps the best possible solution that I have heard! The solution is unlikely but it would work miraculously. Rendering not guilty verdicts for certain vice and victimless crimes will really put the system to a test. If everyone agreed to do this, not even voir dire would weed out jurors sympathetic to the prosecution. In fact, the policing system in America would be upended and we would see rights return to the people. Police won't enforce crimes where their actions will result in a not guilty verdict. Much of the crimes code would, in effect, be decriminalized.

Re:Nullify! Jury Nullification (2)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333215)

Sadly, what will ACTUALLY happen if you bring this up during voir dire is that the judge will hold you in contempt for "poisoning the jury pool" and you spend some time in jail.

If the judge hears of you bringing it up in the jury box - and remember, jury deliberations are NOT actually private or protected, the other jurors are free to rat you out - then he can do the same thing, hold you in contempt and replace you with an alternate.

Re:Nullify! Jury Nullification (0)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332927)

Have you ever been on a jury? I've been on two; in the first trial we found the guy guilty (he was totally guilty of beating up and robbing the victim). The other was a drunk driving charge that was bogus and the judge all but told us to let the guy off. From my personal experience the system works as designed.

Re:Nullify! Jury Nullification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39333005)

One cannot draw any meaningful statistics from 2 samples.

Get back to us when you've been on 50 juries.

Re:Nullify! Jury Nullification (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333085)

in the first trial we found the guy guilty (he was totally guilty of beating up and robbing the victim).

And this relates to the OPs comments about juries overseeing cases involving victimless crime how?

Re:Nullify! Jury Nullification (1)

undeadbill (2490070) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333171)

I've been through the jury selection process. By identifying oneself as aware of or willing to nullify, a person could either be kicked out of the pool, or even be declared in contempt of court (skirting one's duty to faithfully serve as instructed, as a means of skipping jury duty). It depends on jurisdiction, how one states his or her opinion to the court, and the judge's mood.

In my case, I didn't have to press the issue- they found jurors before they got to me and asked their questions.

Re:Nullify! Jury Nullification (1, Troll)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333193)

Jury nullification undermines the legal process and is not a good thing in any way.

You can get all romantic about the thought of saving some young guy from jail for drugs possession but would you find it so noble if a Klan member got away with murdering an innocent African American youth by his all white jury? How about an innocent man who clearly didn't commit murder being found guilty because he was gay and the jury thought homosexuals were sinful and he deserved to be punished anyway?

Laws are put into place by people elected by millions of voters. A single (or even a sizable minority) person in a Jury undermining this because of his personal, political views is democratic and goes against the whole principle of justice being blind. This is why any judge (and lawyers for both sides) worth their salt, are on the lookout for people looking to attempt jury nullification and if you lie to them in order to try it out... Enjoy being found in contempt (or worse).

Not Really (1)

jon3k (691256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332801)

They'd just raise our taxes to pay for all those new public defenders, judges and courtrooms.

Parking tickets! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332817)

My dad loudly demanded a trial by jury when he got a parking ticket. The judge just got rid of the ticket.

Re:Parking tickets! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39333131)

Except there is no right to a jury trial for a parking ticket anywhere in the US, and this anecdote is bullshit, like over 99% of all Slashdot comments on legal topics.

Re:Parking tickets! (1)

lee1026 (876806) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333165)

How does that work legally? Doesn't the constitution have that line about 20 dollar charges?

I am sorry (1)

Master Moose (1243274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332823)

Is someone advocating for MORE lawyers?

"Crashing the system... Yeah, right" (3, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332851)

The problem is we are talking about people's lives here. You want to forfeit your life for a prank or to make a point? OK, thought not. Well, neither do most of the folks currently being given an opportunity to plead to a lesser charge today.

The justice system for the most part sees the scum of the earth and very rarely are these people even technically innocent. They know it and are just interested in doing as little time as they possibly can. They already know the system is broken because they have gotten away with many, many crimes for years before being caught. If it wasn't so badly broken, they would have been caught already.

You see, there is a really simple truth at work here. People know they might get caught but they seriously underestimate the likelyhood of it because based on anecdotal evidence it looks like most people do not get caught. The reality is only about 20% of individual crimes do end up with someone receiving some kind of punishment. But, these are individual crimes - at some point the law of averages catches up with you so on your 40th crime or so it is almost a dead certainity that you are going down for it. The people in the criminal justice system - on the receiving end - do not think this through all they way and see only the few of their friends that are getting caught.

Sure, every once in a while a truely innocent person is hauled into court. At that point they have maybe only a 50/50 chance of escaping undeserved punishment because of the way things work. Would it be nice to fix that? Sure. But to fix it we are going to have to start training children to be more like Beaver and less like Eddie - right now, Eddie is winning out because it looks like he has a lot more fun. Problem is, the Eddies of the world do indeed have more fun but we would really like to live in a world populated with as few Eddies as possible - while it may be fun for Eddie it isn't so much fun for the people around him. We are talking about trying to undo 40 or 50 years of pop culture conditioning and 40 or 50 years of real live experiences in the inner cities of the US.

See, today when you end up in court the guy before you is really guilty and the guy after you is really guilty. The overwhelming number of people are really guilty, so much so that it shades everyone's expectations. Everyone is assumed at one level or another to be guilty because ... for the most part they are. If even 1 in 10 was truely innocent there might be a chance of the system being able to recognize an innocent person but they are so incredibly rare as to make it impossible for the people running the system to recognize them. There may be varying shades of guilt, but even with that the number of people in the system that are in fact guilty, know they are guilty and just wanting to get the smallest pain in their life possible makes the plea bargining system work the way it does.

Re:"Crashing the system... Yeah, right" (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333107)

The stuff you say is true. It has always been true and it is true all over the world. Butt.... The point is that incarceration rates in the USA are at record highs. We currently have the highest incarceration rate in the entire world. There is a real problem in the USA. You can't hand wave it away.

jurys need better pay as well (3, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332865)

some times you lose more by getting on a jury.

Some places have fired people for going on one http://www.jdsupra.com/post/documentViewer.aspx?fid=d92cc1df-79be-4c30-849d-988ccf1bba6d [jdsupra.com]

Re:jurys need better pay as well (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333079)

"Judge Holderman sent a letter to hhgregg informing it of Hendersâ(TM) allegations and asking it to respond in writing. The company did not do so."

Yeahhhh, that's a good way to get off the ground...

Great idea... (2)

jbwolfe (241413) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332871)

... if you're facing serious charges, but I sure don't want to be the one who gets to test it. Plea bargains usually save the court and prosecution some effort and the defendant some time, but if you're likely to get convicted, pleading down is usually a win/win. Now if you're innocent, plead so and go to trial- jury or judge.

Slashdot going off course? (0)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332881)

"The U.S. Bill of Rights guarantees the accused basic safeguards, including a fair and speedy jury trial, but in this era of mass incarceration â" when our nation's prison population has quintupled in a few decades â" these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical. More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury, in part because the Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that threatening someone with life imprisonment for a minor crime in an effort to induce him to forfeit a jury trial did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to trial.

How exactly is this "news for nerds, stuff that matters?" This is Slashdot.org, right?

Folks, I just want to know because I believe Slashdot is going off course. Surely, this is not news for nerds about stuff that matters...or is it?

Re:Slashdot going off course? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39333105)

How exactly is this "news for nerds, stuff that matters?" This is Slashdot.org, right?

Folks, I just want to know because I believe Slashdot is going off course. Surely, this is not news for nerds about stuff that matters...or is it?

Audience: legal nerds
Stuff that matters: your rights

Done.

Re:Slashdot going off course? (1)

Trilkin (2042026) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333149)

The majority of Slashdot posters live in the US. This is concerning US law. Considering how much US law is changing (or trying to change) to make certain things very difficult for nerds, this matters. A lot. This also matters if you live outside of the US since, unless you weren't aware, the US can do whatever the fuck they want where ever the fuck they want because they can.

They don't call it... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332889)

"The Prisoner's Dilemma" for nothing.

Jury nullification (2, Insightful)

Xandrax (2451618) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332903)

Jury nullification would be another benefit. While the justice system tries to hide this consitutional doctrine and demand that juries be nothing more than "finders of facts", it exists primarily to protect citizens from unjust laws that have been forced upon them. The war on drugs would be a good example of this. If most citizens don't believe that a person should spend 5 years in jail for smoking weed, start acquitting the "guilty" using jury nullification.

Yet another reason (4, Interesting)

tukang (1209392) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332949)

to end the war on drugs. because this would significantly reduce the work-load of the courts and allow them to have more jury trials.

Among the prisoners, drug offenders made up the same percentage of State prisoners in both 1997 and 2004 (21%). The percentage of Federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses declined from 63% in 1997 to 55% in 2004.[8] In the twenty-five years since the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, the United States penal population rose from around 300,000 to more than two million.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_incarceration_rate [wikipedia.org]

Sensational Summary Session? (5, Interesting)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332965)

More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury, in part because the Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that threatening someone with life imprisonment for a minor crime in an effort to induce him to forfeit a jury trial did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to trial.

That's a bit misleading no. A prosecutor can threaten to charge you with a crime that carries a life sentence but it takes a judge and a jury to impose it. The only reason that to take his threat seriously is because you predict that it's likely that he will prevail at trial. If you think you'll prevail, the threat is totally meaningless -- it's not like the prosecutor can put you in jail of his own accord.

Look, I'm all for better trials (especially in the sense of getting better representation for defendants at the trial level where public defenders are really atrocious) but the idea that plea-bargaining is part of the problem is absurd. Plea bargains are often the most socially effective way of dealing with the most obvious cases. Gee, an officer replied to a DV call of a man beating his wife, comes in and sees a woman with a black eye and a dude that smells of whiskey* -- do we really need a jury to decide that one? Or grand theft auto where the perp is caught in the stolen car.

Those cases abound because the criminals in the justice system are, by selection, the stupider ones: the ones that got caught. It stands to reason that, on average, more of them would be open-and-shut cases that your average crime. Just watch COPS** once to see how blindingly guilty some of these idiots are. The smart criminals are the ones that you don't see and never find and aren't taking plea bargains because of the overwhelming amount of evidence stacked against them.

* This is not a made up anecdote, one of my neighbors served in a rather ho-him middle class suburb and he said that he responded to at least one such case per week, often more and very often with repeat offenders. It depressed him to no end that there was not a "get drunk and hit your wife 20 times in a lifetime and we get to take you out behind the woodshed and knock some sense into you" rule, but that's a different matter.

** Or, as my crim pro prof called it "A 30 minute class on the actual procedure of criminal law that you can watch for free every Saturday".

How about just stop committing crimes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332989)

I think the subject line speaks for itself.

It could end up like India... (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332993)

Our systems could end up like the huge backlog of cases in India [atimes.com]

From the article:

A backlog of 29.2 million cases pending across hundreds of subordinate state-level courts, 21 high courts and the Supreme Court. According to figures released recently [2008] by the Indian Supreme Court - the country's highest judicial authority - out of this mind-boggling number, over 25.4 million cases are pending in subordinate courts, 3.7 million cases in various high courts while the Supreme Court is stuck with 45,887 cases awaiting justice. According to the Supreme Court's findings, among the states, Uttar Pradesh - India's most populous state with a population of 180 million - leads the pack with 4.8 million cases awaiting trial followed by Maharashtra and Gujarat with 4 million and 3.4 million cases, respectively.

This huge backlog of unresolved cases, experts claim, is directly proportional to a lack of judges. So, while Uttar Pradesh has a vacancy of 521 judges against a required roster of 2,172, Maharashtra suffers from a shortfall of 376 against the current strength of 1,897 posts.

Although cases are resolved at an undeniably high speed, India has roughly 11 judges for every million people [india-briefing.com] compared with roughly 110 per million in the United States.

Free State Project activism (2)

J'raxis (248192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333089)

In New Hampshire, we've been working on spreading knowledge about this fact for some time now. See http://nevertakeaplea.org/ [nevertakeaplea.org] . There are flyers we hand out at court [freekeene.com] , too. Glad to see more and more people are waking up to this.

This activism [nhjury.com] is a nice complement to it: Not only demand a jury trial but convince the jury to acquit because the law is unjust, too.

On a related note, challenge tickets in court (4, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333127)

My local municipalities all started sending cops out on fishing expeditions to supplement their income during the recession. One lawyer I talked to said the ticket rates for one city in one month exceeded that for the whole year. They started sweeps for buckled drivers and even drivers license checkpoints. I would've loved to see these drivers making all these cops go to court to defend their tickets.

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