Op Piece on Criminal Justice Act of 1964 by George Will in the Washington Post

Interesting opinion piece on the Criminal Justice Act of 1964 by George Will in the Washington Post. Must read for criminal defense attorneys in the public sector and private sectors.  The opinion article asks who is better off the pre or post act defendant?  One response might surprise some.

In the article David Patton, executive director of Federal Defenders of New York says “‘that federal criminal law expanded recklessly and become too punitive.  Prosecutors use severity (especially mandatory minimum sentences), high rate of pre-trial detention (doubled since 1963) and long detention (the length has quintupled since 1963) to produce excessive plea bargaining.  This limits defense lawyers’ abilities to test evidence and challenge allegations before a neutral arbiter – a judge or jury.  The adversarial process, the foundation of our criminal justice system, has become an inquisitorial process that fails to produce fair trials.”

While the opinion piece does include a counter-point to Patton’s beliefs, as a public defender at the state level for many years, I can tell you he’s absolutely right.  In fact, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leverage tactics at the disposal of prosecutors to rush a defendant to a plea bargaining without fulling exploring the search for truth.

To read the opinion piece in its entirety please click the following link.  Article in the Washington Post also includes links to other reading material on the subject of legal aid and indigent defense.