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It is the centerpiece of America's judicial process: the trial by jury system that places a defendant's fate in the hands of a jury of one's peers. But just how many citizens are aware that nearly 95 percent of all criminal cases never reach a jury but instead are settled through plea bargains? To overworked and understaffed defense lawyers prosecutors and jurists plea bargains are the safety valve that keeps cases moving through our backlogged courts. Critics however contend that the push to resolve cases through plea bargains jeopardizes the constitutional rights of defendants who may be pressured to admit their guilt whether they're guilty or not. In this 90-minute documentary FRONTLINE explores the moral judicial and constitutional implications of relying on plea bargains to expedite justice.
posted june 17, 2004
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