n Lafler v. Cooper, Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority of the Supreme Court, noted that "criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials. Ninety-seven percent of federal convictions and ninety-four percent of state convictions are the result of guilty pleas." These numbers have not been consistent: the percentage of criminal defendants opting to plead guilty has only risen over the years. A defendant who pleads guilty forgoes the possibility of being acquitted and therefore receiving no punishment. A right to trial is in part a right to seek to avoid punishment. Americans interested in the legal system and foreign legislators and lawyers should be skeptical of a system in which more than ninety percent of defendants waive their right to a trial.
This post was originally published on the Cardozo International & Comparative Law Review website on October 1, 2021. The original post can be accessed via the Archived Link button above.
Hughes, Aaron, "The Malignancy of Plea Bargaining" (2021). CICLR Online. 22.