The concept of everyman being innocent till proven guilty in
a trial by jury is a vanishing piece of Americana. It has been supplanted by a
negotiation process in which the judge’s role has been reduced to that of an
administrator and the jury’s role has been superseded by the states attorney
who charges high while the defense attempts to bargain down.
Intimidating mandatory minimums associated with the trial
process make the consequences of trial by jury menacing to the uneducated, unemployed,
uninformed and unconnected.
A recent article in the Herald Tribune points out: By one
count, fewer than one in 40 felony cases now make it to trial.
If those statistics hold true in Florida, it means about
4,000 of the 102,000 inmates went to prison without trial. If we profile the
entire prison population, we will find that the average education is at the 6th
grade and that most were unemployed when arrested.
There is an interesting catalyst that drives the negotiations
process. Every person has a different tolerance for being held in jail prior to
reaching a deal. Leave a person in jail
long enough and any deal becomes more appealing.
This is especially so for a single mother with dependent
children. Time served plus paper is like a dream come true. They can get out
and back to the job of parenting. However, make a mistake and it’s go to prison
without time to put your affairs in order.
Being given time to put your affairs in order, given time to
resolve medical issues and time off to get past the Christmas holidays is
largely a prerogative of the educated, employed and connected.
Staff writer Karen Voyles gives an excellent depiction of how
this works in her article of September 27, 2011. She points out how two accomplices
pleaded guilty to conspiracy to pay kickbacks to former Corrections Secretary
James Crosby and Allen Wayne Clark.
That is they pleaded guilty in federal court four years after
both Crosby and Clark were sent to prison and then given till the after
Christmas to report for sentencing.
In all fairness, it should be pointed out that one was an
insurance executive. He needed surgery and the judge allowed him 3 or so months
to get it prior to reporting to federal prison. Sentencing delayed in prison kickback case
Put another face on the equation; morph the insurance
executive into a pregnant woman sentenced to one year in Alachua county jail.
Then turn the clock back to May of 2010, and change the charges from conspiracy
to pay kickbacks to credit card abuse.
She was sent to jail with no consideration of being 6 or so
months pregnant. We are talking of the gestation period of a person that has no
involvement what so ever in the crimes committed.
A gestation period that closely paralleled the insurance
executive’s medical operation delay. Had the baby suffered lasting handicaps or
death in delivery within the jail dispensary, no doubt it would have been
reported as a regrettable situation and the entire incident forgotten.
Then on September 29, 2011, Cindy Swirko reported on a case
of a Gainesville attorney charged by the Alachua county Sheriff’s office with
multiple counts of sexual battery to a teen ager of 15 to 17 years. A plea deal
of no contest to child abuse to avoid a trial was accepted by both the states
attorney and the court. He avoided mandatory minimums of prison and sex
offender sanctions.Attorney gets year in jail on child abuse charge
To Ms Swirko’s credit, she captured the spin of both the
defense lawyer and states attorney that far exceeded any ‘double speak’ out of a
George Orwell novel. However, it did
high light the process of ‘let’s make a deal.”
Another morph exercise would be to change our Gainesville
attorney into an unemployed day laborer with a 6th grade education.
Then open any paper in the last decade and see if any like deal has been
I forgot to point out that both men’s sentencing was
postponed so they could be home for Christmas prior to going to prison/jail.
Minimal ‘good time’ will shave of enough days so their release from confinement
will in time for another Christmas at home. A touching point of consideration
for the educated, connected and employed men.
One case was in
federal court and the other in state court.
Someone, please tell me that the concept of innocent till proven guilty
has not morphed into ‘let’s make a deal’ with education, employment and
connections being a driving force.
Bear in mind that in any negotiation process, guilt or
innocence is totally irrelevant.