Jacob Sullum on Why Prosecutors Love Mandatory Minimums
When you see the stark choices that federal defendants face, you can begin to understand why an astonishing 97 percent of them decide to plead guilty. The bigger the gap between the sentence a defendant can get through a plea bargain and the one he will get if he is convicted after a trial, the stronger his incentive to “cooperate”—and the weaker the system’s claim to be doing justice.
Holder clearly is right that plea bargains do not require mandatory minimums. But from the perspective of prosecutors who are single-mindedly focused on obtaining convictions as expeditiously as possible—and terrified of what might happen if a substantial portion of defendants started asserting their Sixth Amendment rights—there is no reason to give up the enormous leverage that mandatory minimums provide.
This has led to the strange situation where the biggest opposition the Attorney General faces to reform of mandatory minimums comes from his own prosectors.
Just a reminder…
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.