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  #1  
Old 03-21-2006, 04:52 PM
JustAnotherGeek JustAnotherGeek is offline
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How often does a judge throw out a plea and the defendant walks?

From this story: http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/03/21/te....ap/index.html

... which is a continuation of the Florida teacher/student sex scandal trial. The short version (at least, as I see it):

The prosecutors and defence came to an agreement on a plea bargain. The defenense and prosecutors argued for the plea. The judge rejected it on grounds that he did not like how little jail time she would receive. Since the victim did not want to testify, the prosecution then dropped the case. (She is serving time for other crimes committed in other jurisdictions, however.)

1.) What the ...? If the prosecution knew that the victim was not going to testify, wouldn't all parties involved have to know this? (If so, why would the defense go along with the plea?)

2.) How often does a judge throw out a plea bargain that both the prosecution and defense agree on?

3.) How often does a case get dropped after a plea bargain has been thrown out?

Please tell me that I'm not the only one confused by this.
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  #2  
Old 03-21-2006, 05:21 PM
Otto Otto is offline
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Regarding point the first, "did not want to testify" is not the same as "is not going to testify." AFAIK the boy has no right not to testify on the grounds of "I don't want to." Per your article, the prosecution decided to drop the charges to spare the boy, who is suffering from emotional problems because of the publicity, from testifying. Had the prosecutor not decided to drop the charges, the boy would have been put on the stand whether he wanted to be there or not. Now, years of watching courtroom dramas have taught me that prosecutors don't want reluctant witnesses on the stand, so if the defendant is already serving time on other charges the prosecutor has apparently decided that the trauma to the boy isn't worth the additional jail time.
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  #3  
Old 03-21-2006, 08:17 PM
JustAnotherGeek JustAnotherGeek is offline
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Ok. Fair enough.

I guess it just sounds odd that a seemingly iron-clad case against a child molester was derailed. I know that she is not getting off scot free, but there was a punishment in hand that was thrown out for being too lenient, and instead, she gets nothing. I am just kind of curious as to why a judge would throw out a plea bargain that both sides have agreed upon, especially when the alternative turned out to be a lack of a sentence. I am not saying that the judge should have precognition, but I am curious to know how often this sort of thing happens and whether or not the judge should have considered that he was not going to get a stronger punishment when he threw out the plea bargain.
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Old 03-21-2006, 08:52 PM
CaveMike CaveMike is offline
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If the prosecution drops the charges, are they allowed to re-charge her again for the same incident or is it all done? If it is still possible, perhaps the judge wanted to keep this option open rather than settle what he felt was a lenient deal?
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Old 03-21-2006, 09:04 PM
doreen doreen is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustAnotherGeek
Ok. Fair enough.

I guess it just sounds odd that a seemingly iron-clad case against a child molester was derailed. I know that she is not getting off scot free, but there was a punishment in hand that was thrown out for being too lenient, and instead, she gets nothing. I am just kind of curious as to why a judge would throw out a plea bargain that both sides have agreed upon, especially when the alternative turned out to be a lack of a sentence. I am not saying that the judge should have precognition, but I am curious to know how often this sort of thing happens and whether or not the judge should have considered that he was not going to get a stronger punishment when he threw out the plea bargain.
I don't know how often it happens, but I've got a pretty good idea of why it happens. Because the judge is going to be held responsible by the press and the public (and hopefully, himself) if he accepts the deal and allows her to plead guilty and not serve time. It's not his job to just go along with whatever the defense and prosecution agree to. He's supposed to impose what he believes to be an appropriate sentence for the conviction. If he's just going to be a rubber stamp, then he's not necessary.He couldn't know the prosecutor was going to dismiss the charges- the prosecutor can't discuss something like that with the judge and keep the defense out of the loop.
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Old 03-21-2006, 09:11 PM
JRDelirious JRDelirious is online now
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Maybe this judge, being aware of the sentence arrived at in the defendant's other case (loss of license, 3 years house arrest, 7 years probation, registration as sex offender), felt it was worth it to make the statement that in his court he would prefer her to do 'hard" time. I strongly suspect that if there were NO other plea or sentence from another court, that is, if indeed it would mean she walked away totally unpunished, then this plea would have been more favorably approached.
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  #7  
Old 03-21-2006, 10:21 PM
JustAnotherGeek JustAnotherGeek is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doreen
He couldn't know the prosecutor was going to dismiss the charges- the prosecutor can't discuss something like that with the judge and keep the defense out of the loop.
Thank you, doreen. That was a piece of the puzzle that I was missing.
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Old 03-22-2006, 04:06 AM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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By dropping the case, the prosecutor has also sent a message to the Judge (and the other Judges in the jurisdiction). He's told them that when he comes in with a negotiated plea, he's got the best deal he thinks he can get from the defense. If Judges start second-guessing all these pleas, it's going to mess up the system, and may end up with defendants walking. So you stick to judging, and I'll stick to prosecuting.

Of course, by law all of them (judge, prosecutor & defense attorney) are officers of the court, and supposed to be working together to see that justice is served.

But prosecutors really do resent it when judges try to micro-manage the plea bargaining process, and will try to make their displeasure known.

I don't know that this was involved here, but it well could have been.


Regarding the OP questions (how often...), I don't think there are any figures kept on these things. Mostly it's the disposition of cases that is recorded, not dispositions that were proposed but not actually done.
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Old 03-22-2006, 11:08 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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I'd echo t-bonham. In my 13+ years of Ohio criminal practice, it's very rare for a judge to refuse to accept a plea agreement worked out between the prosecutor, defense counsel and defendant. It's even rarer for the prosecution to drop charges if the judge doesn't accept the plea - in fact, I've never heard of it happening, although I suppose it's not impossible.

The prosecutor's witness problems in the Florida case seem to be determinative.
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  #10  
Old 03-22-2006, 01:37 PM
Bricker Bricker is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CaveMike
If the prosecution drops the charges, are they allowed to re-charge her again for the same incident or is it all done? If it is still possible, perhaps the judge wanted to keep this option open rather than settle what he felt was a lenient deal?
They may re-file against her later. Jeopardy attaches to a criminal case when a jury is sworn in to hear the case (or, in a bench trial, when the judge begins hearing evidence). No jeopardy would bar the subsequent prosecution.

However, other clocks -- the right to a speedy trial and the statute of limitations - would be in play. There will come a point where she can no longer be prosecuted without being re-indicted, and there will come a point where she can no longer be prosecuted, period.
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