Truth, Justice, and the American Style Plea Bargain

Ken Strutin

 Government of the State of New York – New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA)

2014

Albany Law Review, Vol. 77, No. 3, p. 825, 2013/2014

Abstract:

In the 2011 term, the Supreme Court decided two cases, Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper, which highlighted whether the Sixth Amendment right to counsel safeguarded the integrity of the trial or encompassed non-trial facets such as the plea bargain. This line of decisions has been followed most recently by Burt v. Titlow, which further defined the role of postconviction record-making in assessing the fundamental question: Did the right to effective assistance of counsel protect the accuracy of the verdict or the fairness of the process?

Through the prism of recent Supreme Court plea bargaining decisions this Article examines their implications for the competing goals of truth versus process. Part I frames the argument about the nature of criminal justice and the tension between fact-finding trials and resolution making plea negotiations. Then, those values are scrutinized in the context of three recent and watershed Supreme Court decisions: Part II Missouri v. Frye, Part III Lafler v. Cooper, and Part IV Burt v. Titlow. Lastly, Part V considers the lessons of wrongful incarceration as guideposts to align accuracy with certainty in the administration of justice.

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