More than 95 percent of cases in Connecticut’s court system over the past four years were resolved without a trial, meaning too many end with plea bargains built on watered-down charges, says state victim advocate Michelle Cruz, according to the Hartford Courant. People have died as a result, specifically in domestic violence cases, Cruz said. Cruz outlined her concerns in a letter to the state Office of Policy and Management. She asked for a study of the number of criminal trials in the state, how long it takes to prosecute them, how many cases are resolved with plea bargains, and why.
“There’s something seriously wrong,” Cruz said. One judicial district handled only 0.87 percent of cases via trials. Although some sentences arise from plea deals for valid reasons, Cruz wrote, “the plea bargain process has been exploited.” She said, “After three years of being in Connecticut looking at cases, what I see is a pattern of defendants who are allowed to plea to a more lenient charge that often doesn’t resemble the conduct,” said Cruz, who was a prosecutor in Massachusetts. The lesser, substituted charge “doesn’t reflect the seriousness of the offense,” she said. Her letter said too many undeserving defendants are put in programs that keep them out of jail, and that, in general, court cases take too long to resolve.