AUSTIN — The Texas Public Policy Foundation and Right On Crime applaud today’s launch of the End The Trial Penalty Coalition, a national alliance of criminal justice organizations, those charged with a crime, think tanks, academics, activists, and reform leaders from across the ideological spectrum working together to end the trial penalty.
Approximately 97% of criminal convictions result from guilty pleas. With defendants regularly threatened with more severe prison sentences if they go to trial and lose, many see no choice but to plead. These convictions reflect cost-benefit analyses rather than actual guilt or innocence.
“There’s a reason our nation’s Founders put a right to jury trial in the Sixth Amendment. Without jury trials, government overreach flourishes, the justice system makes more mistakes, and Americans can get hurt,” said Lars Trautman, Right On Crime National Director.
Right On Crime Executive Director and former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman said, “Few truly understand the abuse that has grown as jury trials have disappeared. Right On Crime is proud to be a founding member of the End the Trial Penalty Coalition and we are determined to not only expose abuse but fix such broken aspects of our criminal justice system.”
This substantial, unwarranted difference between a plea offer and a post-trial sentence—the trial penalty—weighs on the entire criminal justice system. One audit in Houston, for example, found hundreds of defendants who pleaded guilty to drug charges in cases where later testing revealed that the “drugs” were not actually illegal drugs. And when there’s a victim, such false confessions can mean the true guilty party remains at large with authorities no longer looking for them.
“As TPPF has advocated for years in opposition to the trial penalty, equal application of the law cannot be reconciled with the routine imposition of much stiffer sentences in otherwise comparable cases for no other reason than to punish one defendant for exercising his or her constitutional right to trial. Public confidence in the system’s legitimacy represents both a moral and practical imperative,” said Robert Henneke, Executive Director and General Counsel of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Members of this new Coalition will work together to raise awareness of the adverse effects of a justice system without jury trials. The Coalition will also serve as a resource for people interested in participating in an impactful criminal legal reform movement. Learn more about the End the Trial Penalty Coalition at www.endthetrialpenalty.org