Should Innocence Panels Be Able to Consider Guilty Pleas?


North Carolina prosecutors are trying to prevent people who have pleaded guilty to crimes to take their cases to the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. Since 2007, 30 percent of cases before the panel have involved guilty pleas. “The innocence commission is a very, very unique entity, and it should not be used as a fail-safe for all the other problems in our system,” said Peg Dorer, executive director of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys. “If they are just going to start picking up all the cases that fall through the cracks, well, that’s not their purpose.”

More than 100 prisoners are asking to have their guilty pleas revisited by the courts, saying an imperfect system and intense pressure led them to use one of the judicial system’s most common mechanisms for clearing a case. Some defendants say they were railroaded into a deal because they were terrified a jury would sentence them to death. The courts would grind to a halt without plea negotiations. More than half of murder charges were resolved by plea deals last year, for example, and fewer than 2 percent went to trial.

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