Saturday, July 28, 2012

acceptance of responsibility

US Sentencing Guidelines use a point system to guide courts to appropriate sentences for defendants. I have learned that if the offender does not "accept responsibility," the court can add points, making the sentence longer. How do they know if the defendant has accepted responsibility? Obvious things like, "I didn't do it," or "He asked for it," I suppose. And not-so-obvious signs like...asking for a trial.

That's right. Turning down a plea agreement and going to trial can be considered not accepting responsibility. Does the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution ring a bell?
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
The court system is now designed to prevent as many trials as possible. The mandatory minimum sentence is the engine behind this trend. Mandatory minimum sentences give the prosecution the hammer needed to force defendants to plead guilty to something. Anything to avoid the longer mandatory minimum sentence. You would probably make the same choice.

Jury trials are a vital protection and lawmakers are fools to have passed the mandatory minimum sentences that practically destroy the right to a jury trial.
Why would our ancestors consider the jury to be one of the last bastions against tyranny and oppression? Because jurors might well decide not to convict their fellow citizens of unjust crimes, while prosecutors and judges would be fixated simply on enforcing and interpreting the laws that Congress enacts.
Read the whole thing.

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