Guilty Plea ‘Forced’ on Defendants

According to a new report from Human Rights Watch, in 2012 only 3 percent of U.S. drug defendants in federal cases made the decision to go to trial instead of pleading guilty. According to the report’s author, Jamie Fellner, this is due to U.S. prosecutors effectively acting to “force” defendants to plead guilty. “Prosecutors can say, ‘Take these 10 years or, if you get a trial and are convicted, you’re going to look at life,’” said Fellner. In the instances when defendants choose to go to court, federal prosecutors were known to “make good” on their threats. In 1980, the first time the Human Rights Watch report was issued, the number of those who pleaded guilty was around 60 percent.