[Nothing contained herein is to be taken as legal advice as it is strictly based on the opinion of the author.]
QUORA.com Revised Response by Wayne T. Dowdy to question, “Why do some lawyers settle for a plea bargain when they know their client is innocent?” (https://www.quora.com/Why-do-some-lawyers-settle-for-a-plea-bargain-when-they-know-their-client-is-innocent)
I cannot say for certain that a lawyer would settle for a guilty plea if he or she knows their client is innocent, because I haven’t experienced it, but I do know that people will take a plea to protect loved ones from prosecution. That happens often! At least, many legal cases exist where people try to withdraw from a guilty plea because of such claims.
I have also known a few men who pled guilty for that reason: Most regretted it after living in prison for a while and then wanted out. Legal Beagles (inmate lawyers) sell pipe dreams to convince them to challenge what most often proves to be a hopeless case.
The law is complex and complicated. A person may read a statute or procedural rule that shows the defendant has available relief or at least an avenue for his or her case to be heard. Things are not as it appears.
The law has many standards and procedural rules that are hidden in thousands of cases and places a novice knows not where to look, and thus misleads another person into believing a claim exists that the courts dismiss.
Legal versus Factual Innocence: In my unprofessional opinion, as I am not an attorney, legal and factual innocence are not the same. In federal court, one may be legally innocent but still not be able to satisfy the legal standard needed to succeed if they file a Writ of Habeas Corpus; Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence, or the most difficult, a Second or Successive Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence. All three have narrow pathways to prison gates.
The difference in legal and actual innocence is that a person may be legally innocent if the government did not have enough evidence to prove every element of an offense. But if the person pled guilty during the plea stage, he or she admitted to guilt during what is known as the plea colloquy, which is where a judge asks the defendant a barrage of questions to determine if the plea is entered intelligently and voluntarily, before accepting the plea.
The plea may be entered based upon a lack of knowledge, and or, the lack of proper advisement by the lawyer, but that doesn’t always matter. Thus, comes many claims of ineffective assistance of counsel that fail when brought before the court. Some do succeed but most will fail because of what transpired during the plea colloquy. At least, so I have found to be true from thousands of hours spent researching the law.
Actual innocence means the person did not commit the crime, regardless of technicalities, and that no reasonable trier of fact would have found the defendant guilty.
Then after landing in prison that person who pled guilty regrets taking the plea; sometimes after finding themselves living in a concentrated environment of dangerous or psychotic men or women and wanting out.
When wanting to withdraw the plea and get back into court, he or she finds a jailhouse lawyer (legal beagle) who claims freedom is knocking on the door. A door that most often will not open until after the person has served the sentence imposed by the court, unless sentenced to life without parole as thousands of men and are, because withdrawing from a guilty plea is difficult, even when claiming innocence.
Another opinion I’ve heard about charging officials who charge someone with a crime they did not commit, is that the charging official believes the criminal committed other crimes anyways, so it doesn’t matter how they got them off the streets. That happened to me.
INNOCENT BUT CHARGED: I was charged with possession of marijuana found in my mother’s house when I didn’t live there. My older brother (now deceased) did live there and did own the marijuana but was not charged.
Stanley had gone to school with the lead detective who conducted the drug raid of my Mother’s House!
The detective said to Stanley, “I know that doesn’t belong to Wayne but he’s a psychopath and needs to be taken off the streets.” (No factual basis existed to support his belief that I was a psychopath: I just wasn’t known to cooperate with law enforcement and to be a Rebel.)
NO DEAL: I didn’t plead guilty. The prosecutor offered three plea deals. After the third attempt, I told my lawyer, “Tell him I said to Kiss my Ass. I am not pleading guilty to a crime I didn’t commit.”
The case was dismissed, after I had set in jail for months without compensation. That’s the way things work because defendants are guilty until proven innocent. Otherwise, why are they punished with a jail cell until they go to court?
Even if able to post bail, that’s still punishment, because non-refundable fees come out of the defendant’s pocket, unless allowed to post a property bond that has its own legal complexities and is not always an option. Besides that, posting bail is not always a choice, so the person sits in jail until disposition. I am not bondable because I’ve escaped.
I have known men who claimed to have plead guilty because they got tired of sitting in jail, and because of being told they couldn’t win their case, guilty or not. Many claimed to be innocent of the crime and told their lawyers who still said they’d be convicted and suggested they take the plea.
That’s how many of the legal versus actual innocence claims get brought into legal arena. Sitting in prison often makes one regret volunteering to be put there without a struggle.
Wayne T. Dowdy writes from StraightFromthePen.com
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