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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.

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