January 01, 2015

Sua Sponte: A Judge Comments

A judge comments on Gerry Spence’s regrets.

Hon. Lynn Adelman

Gerry Spence provides a useful service in pointing out some of the deficiencies in our justice system. Some of his points, however, are more persuasive than others. For example, I found his critique of the criminal process somewhat exaggerated. He bemoans the fact that few criminal defendants seek jury trials. But in most criminal cases, a jury trial would serve no legitimate purpose. Most defendants plead guilty because they are guilty and because a guilty plea is in their best interest. The fact that the process encourages guilty pleas through the promise of shorter sentences and, more disturbingly, that prosecutors sometimes charge offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences in order to obtain pleas to lesser charges does not mean that innocent defendants regularly plead guilty. On the contrary, this rarely happens. And that’s a good thing. We certainly don’t want a system that frequently charges innocent people with crimes.

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