The Case for Abolishing Plea Bargaining Rae Carruth and Martha Stewart Cases

Although plea bargaining has long functioned as one of the fundamental features of the American criminal justice system for more than one hundred years HYPERLINK httpwww.questiaschool.comPM.qstaod5001761425(Gorr, 2000, p. 129), a review of the effects and recent high-profile criminal cases demonstrates why this type of prosecutorial discretion ought to be abolished in order to ensure a more just type of criminal justice system.  Historically, plea bargaining was devised and implemented based on British legal practices that too frequently employed coercive measures and pressures to secure confessions in criminal cases HYPERLINK httpwww.questiaschool.comPM.qstaod5037664707(Vogel, 1999, p. 166).  It was precisely this type of coercive government pressure that would eventually persuade America to incorporate special rights to a jury and other procedural safeguards into Americas founding documents such as the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Culturally, plea bargaining is also rooted in the one-sided types of inquisitions represented by early Puritan approaches to guilt and innocence in the form of the Salem Witch Trials.  Confessions were sought through an early form of American plea bargaining in which a failure to confess very well might mean an effective death sentence.  Taken together, it can be seen that plea bargaining has its historical and cultural origins in practices than would seem to run contrary to notions of justice and fairness in criminal cases.  Although some argue that plea bargaining is a useful and practical strategic tool for prosecutors and defense attorneys, the facts suggest that it is unevenly and unjustly applied in many criminal cases.  This has led to many state-based grassroots movements, characterized as Victims Rights movements, which have sought to have plea bargaining more stringently regulated or eliminated in California, for instance, Californias Proposition 8, a Victims Bill of Rights, was conceived, drafted, passed, and implemented with one of its primary objectives being the elimination of plea bargaining HYPERLINK httpwww.questiaschool.comPM.qstaod22796668(McCoy, 1993, p. xi).  National criticism of plea bargaining has attended fairly recent criminal prosecutions involving public figures and celebrities because of public perceptions that these celebrities received preferential treatment through the plea bargaining mechanism.  One of these criminal cases included murder charges against former National Football League player Rae Carruth and a series of white collar criminal charges against television celebrity Martha Stewart.

In the case of Carruth, the facts fairly firmly established that he conspired with other men to kill his girlfriend who was pregnant more specifically it was alleged that he conspired with three men to kill Adams because he did not want the baby HYPERLINK httpwww.questiaschool.comPM.qstaod113365854(Nasheri, 2002, p. 144).  In furtherance of this conspiracy one of these men, Watkins, killed the girlfriend and the baby was also prevented from being born.  Originally, Carruth was faced with a possible death penalty because of his involvement in the various crimes.  Ultimately, however, because the defendants were trying to help themselves by providing incriminating evidence, a number of plea bargains were discussed.  Eventually, Carruth agreed to a plea bargain for a much shorter prison sentence than Watkins even though Carruth was the motivating force behind the crimes.  This is patently unjust.  A different type of problem created by plea bargaining is illustrated in the Martha Stewart case.  In Stewarts case, for instance, the prosecutors used plea bargaining as a coercive tool to try and compel Steward to confess to certain financial crimes which she denied.  In this respect, it was noted that Martha Stewart was not charged with violating insider trading laws instead, she was charged with obstruction of justice, making false statements, and conspiracy to obstruct justice, make false statements, and commit perjury HYPERLINK httpwww.questiaschool.comPM.qstaod5037469803(Hurt, 2008, p. 374).  Unlike the Carruth case where the defense attorneys used a plea bargaining strategy to secure a shorter prison sentence for premeditated murder, the Stewart case shows zealous publicity-seeking prosecutors using plea bargaining to coerce a criminal defendant into some sort of confession because of inadequate evidence.  The Stewart case provides an excellent contemporary example of the colonial British and Puritan approaches to guilt and innocence hundreds of years ago and violates fundamental notions of fairness and justice.

In conclusion, plea bargaining arose from historical and cultural practices unrelated to fairness and justice.  That this oppressive and corrupt remnant of British rule persists is clearly indicated in the miscarriages of justice represented by the criminal cases involving Rae Carruth and Martha Stewart.  Compromise is not a wise course of action quite the contrary, it is simply time to abolish plea bargaining in order to maintain the integrity of the criminal justice system.


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