Plea bargains necessary part of legal system

As a retired judge and a trial attorney, we wish to comment on the article (TGI, Aug. 1) implying the Prosecuting Attorney Office on Kauai is not serving the public by plea bargaining too many criminal cases.

Our joint experience is that nine out of 10 criminal cases are plea bargained before trial.

This occurs because trials are unpredictable. Witnesses change their stories, direct evidence of crime is not available, most important is the presumption of innocence and the proof requirement of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Police may arrest based on probable cause that a crime has been committed, but probable cause does not meet the legal standards just mentioned.

And the proof presented must be legally convincing to 12 jurors.

You are not soft on crime by plea bargaining. The dynamic that is occurring is a defense attorney being able to point out what a prosecutor cannot prove to 12 jurors. It whittles away the many charges that may be made against a defendant to what can be proved under the high standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

Plea bargaining makes the criminal justice system more efficient. It makes the system fairer to defendants charged with crime.

It is easy to criticize decisions by the Prosecuting Attorney’s office but the public has no expertise in the unpredictability of trials. A plea bargain (done with the victim’s assent) produces just results for the community and the defendant at a reasonable cost to the taxpayers.

Justin Kollar is correct in his explanation that plea bargaining guarantees serving some time in prison and eliminates the risk of an acquittal.

He also pointed out that when the case is first filed, not all of the evidence is known, and investigation could require a reduction in the charge and sentence.

It is unfortunate that just as ballots are mailed out this article appeared with a big headline.


William J. Fernandez, judge, retired, and Judith Fielding Fernandez, attorney at law, reside in Kapaa.


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