A plea negotiation is typically understood as a way for a defendant to try to bargain for lenience in exchange for giving up the right to defend him or herself against criminal charges in court. In a criminal justice system that is all too often intimidating and frightening, some defendants may feel pressure to engage in such a deal even if they know they are not guilty.
This is what happened in a 2002 case when a woman and her boyfriend were accused of killing his mother, in whose attic they lived together. Both were arrested and charged. The boyfriend not only pleaded guilty to the murder, he provided testimony exonerating his girlfriend.
She, however, may not have been aware of that fact as prosecutors elicited a guilty plea from her as well. Despite the boyfriend’s testimony and her own multiple, conflicting versions of events, as well as her anxiety and depression, she was given a 10-year prison sentence.
Now, her criminal defense lawyer is attempting to clear her name in the courts. He’s noted the prosecutor’s duty to inform the defendant of her boyfriend’s confession, as well as her own testimony that she was threatened by him. Although she is out on parole with just about a year left to serve, the goal is to overturn her 2003 criminal conviction entirely.
It would be nice to think that Morris County authorities are acting in good faith when engaging defendants in a plea negotiation. Seeking legal counsel in connection with this process can help protect defendants’ rights and understanding of the factors involved.