Why Innocent People Plead Guilty

In the simple world where most of us seem to want to reside, an innocent person maintains incredulity that anyone would indict him or her for actions committed by someone else.

But prosecutorial assertiveness and restrictions on the sentencing discretion of judges combine to dramatically alter such a simple view. A recent exchange between a Harvard Law Professor, retired judge, Columbia Philosophy Professor and a sitting Federal judge creates an “aha” realization that a guilty plea is anything but a plea “bargain” or an admission of guilt.

To add concreteness to this point, the Innocence Project lists 29 people who served 150 years before being exonerated for crimes for which they had agreed to a  guilty plea.

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