"Do prosecutors have too much power?" That question - which strikes us as rhetorical - is the subject of a New York Times forum called to our attention by sentencing professor/guru/blogger Doug Berman. Forum contributors include former federal prosecutor and judge Paul Cassell, author Angela Davis, former judge Nancy Gertner, and a couple of others. All of their viewpoints are worth considering, but Ms. Davis warmed our hearts with these comments:
On average, federal defendants who refuse to waive their right to a jury trial receive a sentence three times longer than those who plead. And with the prevalence of mandatory minimum laws, a prosecutor’s charging decision often dictates a sentence that a judge is powerless to avoid. It is no wonder 97 percent of federal convictions are the result of guilty pleas.
To rein in this power, Congress should no longer pass laws with mandatory minimum sentences.
Bingo. Check out the full forum.