Is a plea bargain a good deal?

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Rioters clash with police trying to enter Capitol building through the front doors. Photo by Lev Radin/Shutterstock.

This is a special episode of All the Presidents’ Lawyers with Carissa Byrne Hessick, professor of law at the University of North Carolina. As we’ve discussed previously on the show, some federal judges have been wondering (sometimes aloud, in their courtrooms) whether the Capitol Riot defendants are getting off too easy. More than six hundred people have been charged so far — a few with felonies and most with misdemeanor charges. Of those charged, about one hundred people have accepted a plea bargain. There are a lot of reasons why plea bargains are part of the American justice system, but is plea bargaining good? With how overwhelmed D.C. courts are, how are prosecutors thinking about getting defendants to just plead guilty? And what’s the political messaging behind these cases? Carissa Byrne Hessick says plea bargaining is a bad deal and she’s here to talk about it.




Sara Fay, Nisha Venkat