When the only way to go free is to plead guilty
- 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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