When the only way to go free is to plead guilty

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  • Published on:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018
  • A confounding case in Baltimore shows just how far prosecutors will go to keep a win on the books.

    Check out ProPublica’s feature story on the use of the Alford plea here: https://www.propublica.org/article/what-does-an-innocent-man-have-to-do-alford-plea-guilty

    In 1987 police detectives — who’d later be made famous by David Simon, creator of “The Wire” —  used flimsy evidence to pin a burglary, rape and murder case on James Thompson and James Owens. They were both sentenced to life in prison. Then 20 years later, DNA evidence cleared each of them of the rape and unraveled the state’s theory of the crime. But instead of exonerating the two men, prosecutors dangled the prison keys, pushing them to plead guilty to the crime in exchange for immediate freedom. What prosecutors offered was a controversial deal called an Alford plea. Last year, ProPublica investigated prosecutors’ use of Alford pleas and similar deals in cases of wrongful convictions, and found they often cover up official misconduct. Check out the story of the two Jameses above to see what happened after the Alford plea was offered in their cases.

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  • Vox
    Vox  a years ago +1259

    This video was made in collaboration with ProPublica. Our partnership has investigated drug companies, the environmental effects of an explosive used by the military, racial profiling by the Jacksonville, Florida PD, and more. Watch the other videos here: http://bit.ly/2BFMhc0

  • • V W •
    • V W •  2 days ago +2

    That is so sad how Owens spent 20 years in prison for no reason. He will never get this time back, and he was deprived of so many opportunities. He deserves more, even though it won’t be enough to make up for the time that he has lost:

  • lil chicken nugget
    lil chicken nugget  3 days ago +1

    They took away their whole lives..this is horrible

  • Ariel Lee
    Ariel Lee  4 days ago

    I really don’t feel bad for Thompson, he falsely accused Owens and karma came for him. He also singed the plea agreement so why was he shocked that he would be a felon for the rest of his life. And don’t tell me it’s because he didn’t fully understand, people go into prison very uneducated all the time and come out with degrees, he didn’t take the time to educate himself and that is on him. We don’t know who Owens could have or would’ve been because Thompson and the system took that from him. So yeah keep your felon status and MD pay up Owen deserves more than $100-200k.

  • Patricia Handa
    Patricia Handa  5 days ago

    I just want to point out that unless the real killer was an unusual criminal, he likely ultimately ended up in jail for something. They convict a killer on a couple murders and later it comes out they were responsible for a dozen or two.

  • MrSlick16
    MrSlick16  7 days ago

    what a messed up justice system, america can keep their "freedom"

  • malakh000yishai
    malakh000yishai  7 days ago

    that happened to me i was urged to take a plea and i was innocent. now my background has been destroyed as well as my life. all because i was accused of something i didnt do and was threatened with time in prison. so i took the plea. there is no justice or truth in the system.

  • Maria
    Maria  7 days ago

    What kind of society plea bargains with the actual truth.

  • anshul tiwari
    anshul tiwari  21 days ago +1

    Moral of the story : greed is dangerous

  • Ashley Breezy
    Ashley Breezy  21 days ago

    Slingblade mmhmm

  • Derin Altan
    Derin Altan  21 days ago

    No one should claim that this is a system of justice.

  • MsEriKaT
    MsEriKaT  21 days ago +1

    How did he not know what the plea deal really meant?

  • Joseph Louwerse
    Joseph Louwerse  28 days ago

    'Justice' system

  • Peter Dyer
    Peter Dyer  a months ago

    Thompson is still a criminal by perverting the course of justice and sending a man he knew was innocent to prison for 21 years whilst the real killer gets away with it. That said, the Alford plea seems ridiculous. Thompson should be exonerated for the murder but re-tried for his real crime.

  • Courtney Shepard
    Courtney Shepard  a months ago

    sounds like karma to me, shawty.

  • themarbleking
    themarbleking  a months ago

    Plea bargaining is crooked. America is the most corrupt system in history.

  • Natalia Freitas
    Natalia Freitas  a months ago

    This is f***ed up! You should never have to plead guilty if you ARE NOT GUILTY!!! It's so so wrong in some many levels.

    It also shows that revenge is never ever an exit to a problem. 21 years that won't ever go back. So heartbreaking.

  • Bishop
    Bishop  a months ago

    I don't care how long ism locked up for if I know the state has no case I would never plead guilty to get out.I would wait to go to court.get out.then she for millions

  • Bishop
    Bishop  a months ago

    He had to be the dumbest white man in Baltimore to admite to this crime when he didn't do it..he deserved to go to jail.not 4 as long as he was locked up for, a year maybe but not all the years he did

  • ThunderLips
    ThunderLips  a months ago

    Thompson deserves to be a convicted felon. What kind of scumbag do you have to be to accuse an innocent man of murder?