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Argument: Judges take measures to ensure defendants are not pressured to enter into false plea bargains

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Supporting evidence and analysis

  • Judge Michael McSpadden, criminal court judge in Harris County (Houston). PBS Interview. December 16, 2003 - "What about times when innocent people plead guilty? 'All I can do when I go out there is go through the admonishments. If I feel that anyone's qualifying in their response, [I say], "Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?" There's a long hesitation, and they'll say, "No, Judge, I really just feel like I have to," I'm not going to take that plea; we're going to set up a trial. As simple as that. If at any time during the litany of admonishments that I give out there, if I in any way perceive this person pleading guilty because of other reasons than being guilty, I'm not going to take the plea. We're going to automatically set up a trial.' Don't defense attorneys decide pleas? 'The defense attorney advises that person what this person's options are. They can say, "This is your option, this is what you want to do." It's always up to the defendant to make that decision. We can't make the decision for that person. During the admonishments, as you'll see with us, I do everything in the world to try and find out [if] this person is pleading guilty because they are guilty. [I] give all the admonishments, and if at any time I feel that they are being forced into anything, we're not going to take the plea. It stops right there.'"
"You would not impose a plea bargain? 'No. Can't. I can never tell the defendant "You've got to plead this case." There is no way in the world I would ever say that. The defendant always has the option on doing everything, once he or she enters the system. It's going to be their decision which way they go, certainly with the advice of the attorney, hopefully the proper advice. But it'll always be the defendant's decision on what to do.'"

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