Home > Journals > WMLR > Vol. 57 (2015-2016) > Iss. 4 (2016)
William & Mary Law Review
Designing Plea Bargaining from the Ground Up: Accuracy and Fairness Without Trials as Backstops
American criminal procedure developed on the assumption that grand juries and petit jury trials were the ultimate safeguards of fair procedures and accurate outcomes.But nowthat plea bargaining has all but supplanted juries, we need to think through what safeguards our plea-bargaining systemshould be built around. This Symposium Article sketches out principles for redesigning our plea-bargaining system from the ground up around safeguards. Part I explores the causes of factual, moral, and legal inaccuracies in guilty pleas. To prevent and remedy these inaccuracies, it proposes a combination of quasi-inquisitorial safeguards, more vigorous criminal defense, and better normative evaluation of charges, pleas, and sentences. Part II then diagnoses unfair repercussions caused by defendants lack of information and understanding, laymens lack of voice, and the publics lack of information and participation. To prevent and fix these sources of unfairness, it proposes ways to better inform pleas and to make plea procedures more procedurally just.