Somewhere in the neighborhood of 98% of criminal cases in the courts end in conviction -- and 92% of that 98% is due to the pernicious practice of conveyor-belt "plea bargaining." Prosecutors have discovered that most defendants will bend over and take a "gentle" screwing if they're offered a credible threat that demanding a trial will get them the same result sans
With that in mind, I find this story
Armstrong Teasdale LLP has announced that it has partnered with City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney, Jennifer M. Joyce, to develop an innovative program designed to support the community and give young attorneys hands-on trial experience. ... [several attorneys with the firm] will be sworn in as special prosecutors under the program. After training with the Circuit Attorneys' Office, these attorneys will assume a docket of felony criminal cases."
A St. Louis Post-Dispatch story of February 2nd, 2007, clarifies what this docket will consist of. You guessed it ... "Firm will lend five associates to prosecute drug cases
If Armstrong Teasdale wants to "support the community," the last
place it should be offering pro bono
legal support is in the drug prosecution department of a prosecutor's office.
The war on drugs has been a failure in every respect except one: It's a bonanza for corrupt prosecutors. It allows them to bulk up their conviction rates at the expense
of the community in every sense of the word.
It's a plea bargain promoter's wet dream, since draconian sentencing laws and the prevailing de facto
presumption of guilt make it a virtual guarantee that the guy with one joint in a baggie in his glove compartment will "plead out" rather than risk being treated as a "trafficker." The biggest feed stock for this assembly line injustice is marijuana prosecution -- more than 800,000 arrests every year!
Anyone who's ever sat through a preliminary hearing in a drug case (yes, I have) knows that judges will bend over backward to cut through any inconvenient Fourth Amendment obstacles and hand the prosecutor a "case" based on even the flimsiest of evidence, after which the offer is made and the victim gets to decide whether to take the easy way out (a fine and probation) or go up against an opponent with a judge in pocket and, for all intents and purposes, an unlimited budget.Bouvier's Law Dictionary
as "the habitual moving, exciting, and maintaining suits and quarrels, either at law or otherwise." That's pretty much the whole prosecutorial end of the war on drugs in a nutshell. More drug cases for a prosecutor mean more easy "plea bargain" convictions and a better "conviction rate." They also mean more ruined lives, more seized assets, and more dangerous streets, but no biggie ... since they allow the prosecutor to piss and moan about being "overworked" while simultaneously piling up yet more of the same kinds of cases.
If Armstrong Teasdale wants to "support the community" with pro bono
work, here's an idea -- put those five attorneys to work defending
drug cases. Give the victims a chance to put up a real defense in a game that's rigged against them. Let them tell the prosecutor to go pound sand when a "deal" is offered, and exercise their right to a speedy public trial before a jury of their peers. Bring Jennifer Joyce's assembly line sausage-grinder to a halt and force her to go looking for real crimes to prosecute. That
would be a public service.