A New York federal judge, Jed Rakoff, has proposed one reform: plea-bargaining conferences. In sealed proceedings, judges would examine each party’s position and recommend a nonbinding plea bargain. The plan needs to be refined so it allows a defendant to opt out if he publicly acknowledges he understands what he is giving up. The proposal, however, provides a layer of review to protect the innocent from being pressured into pleading guilty, while potentially encouraging fairer plea bargains through the oversight of a neutral party. It creates a record of plea-bargaining efforts, so there can be no uncertainty as to whether an offer was requested or ignored. Finally, it might help guilty people make a more informed choice about how to resolve their cases.
Why Adnan Syed of ‘Serial’ Should Have Pleaded Guilty, JAN. 22, 2015