'Make-a-deal justice'

May 23, 1991

Based on more than 40 interviews, The Evening Sun's recent series on deal-making in Baltimore Circuit Court showed that:

* Plea bargaining -- the practice of exchanging leniency for guilty pleas -- has become a way of life in a judicial system choked with drug cases. Throughout city Circuit Court, guilty pleas decide more than 90 percent of the criminal cases that proceed all the way to conviction or acquittal.

* Prosecutors must trade reduced sentences for guilty pleas because there is not enough time, money, courtrooms or prison space to vigorously prosecute every accused criminal.

* Public defenders, pressured by a dwindling budget and huge caseloads that make adequate represention virtually impossible, see no alternative to wholesale plea-bargaining.

* For every 100 criminal cases that enter Baltimore Circuit Court, just four go before a jury, and many serious offenders receive suspended sentences with probation.

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