96% of federal criminal cases are resolved by plea bargain.
That means that 96% of the time no judge or jury hears the evidence and makes a decision about whether or not a person deserves to be punished and how severe the punishment should be.
That means that 96% of the time a suspect is confronted with this choice: take a sure conviction of a lesser offense and less prison time, or take a chance on a trial for a more serious crime and, possibly, a much longer prison sentence.
As you are thinking it over, consider this: juries in the U.S. absolutely love to convict. They just love, love, love it. They will convict you in the morning, convict you in the night; they will convict you based on nothing, except the word of a law enforcement officer or prosecutor who just feels very, very sure that you are guilty, and the identification of a distant blind witness who saw you from 300 meters away on a dark night in the rain and picked you out of a police lineup because you were the only one complaining about being in a police lineup.
We know the system often fails because of the all the convictions that have been reversed based on DNA evidence. But as long as most of those convictions are of black men, our society doesn’t care.
We have the opportunity to go back and re-examine those cases to try to figure out why these men were convicted in the first place. The answer– aside from the obvious– is: it’s hard to tell.
You might believe that prosecutors and police are honorable, ethical professionals who never let personal ambition sway their decisions about how to handle a criminal case. I think you would be wrong. There are too many examples of prosecutors or police who were more interested in a conviction than in the reputation of the criminal justice system. Exculpatory evidence is often hidden from the defense. Dubious “expert” witnesses testify about fibers or chemicals or traces of substances found on the victim that could “only” have come from the suspect’s car or closet, to the exclusion of all other possible suspects or cars or closets even though no other suspects or cars or closets were examined.
There is no justice system; There is a system for processing black men into prisons at the lowest cost possible.
It only took only took 9 years for the U.S. to badger Majiid Khan into confessing to numerous terrorist activities, including conspiracies with the mad Sheik Khalid Mohammed and Osama Bin Laden, whom he has never met. And he must also confess to the bombing in Jakarta in 2003, though he was in custody five months before it happened. When Mr. Khan mentioned something about the agreement meaning he couldn’t sue the CIA for mistreatment, the live video feed was cut off.
Is this some kind of joke? Why do people take these plea bargains seriously? If the U.S. had evidence against Khan, why would they accept an 18 year sentence? If he was really co-responsible for the deaths of 50 people in Jakarta– would they not have sought the death penalty?
There is only one reason why they would not: they have no evidence.
And if you have no evidence, it may take 9 years, but you will get a plea bargain, if that’s what you want.
Because the alternative, for Majiid Khan, is forever.