Anatomy of Justice: The Mystery of Plea Agreements

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The Sixth Amendment guarantees that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.”

And yet, in today's criminal justice system, very few cases go to trial. Instead, most cases are resolved through a plea bargaining process by which the accused plead guilty - even for crimes they didn't commit - to avoid a trial and lengthy prison sentence. Ninety-four percent of felony convictions at the state level and 97 percent of felony convictions at the federal level are the result of plea bargains. This practice contributes to the rise of mass incarceration of the poor and minorities in the U.S.

How can we make sense of the plea process? Can it be reformed? Several local leaders discuss this topic in the latest installment of the Anatomy of Justice series.


Panelists include:

Saleh Awadallah, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor 

The Honorable Michael P. Donnelly, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court 

Vicki Ward, Defense Attorney

Timothy Young, Director, Office of the Ohio Public Defender

This conversation is moderated by The Honorable John J. Russo, Presiding and Administrative Judge in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

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