An "insider" reveals hidden truth about conviction of the innocent in letter to editor of major newspaper.
Measure 11 -- an insider's view of it.
By Hans Sherrer, JD Contributor
Edited by Kira Caywood
The following letter to the editor appeared in The Oregonian on September 7, 2000. It states the great unspoken secret of judges, prosecutors, police, defense lawyers and other people within the legal system -- innocent people are routinely prosecuted and convicted by being pressured into pleading guilty.
As noted below, Measure 11 is a mandatory sentencing law in Oregon that imposes such harsh sentences that innocent people feel compelled to waive their right to a trial and plead guilty to a non-Measure 11 offense that involves a lesser sentence. Oregonians will vote on an initiative to repeal Measure 11 in November 2000.
To respect their privacy, JD omits the names of the author of the letter to editor and the person referred to in the first sentence.
Many Did Not Commit the Crime
"In his letter, name omitted gave a little advice to the 'victims' of Measure 11" (Aug. 29). He wrote, 'Don't commit a violent crime against another person, and you won't be sentenced using Measure 11."
"Hello! Just because someone is charged with a crime doesn't mean that he committed it. Most have, but many defendants are innocent.
"It is common in Multnomah and Washington counties for innocent Measure 11 defendants to plead guilty to reduced charges, nearly always requiring them to serve prison time. The risk of going to trial, being convicted and facing much longer, mandatory sentences is simply too great.
"I have worked for the local public defender for more than 10 years. Every attorney in our office who has defended Measure 11 cases has had innocent clients plead guilty to reduced charges because of the Measure 11 sentencing hammer hanging over their heads.
"The fatal flaw in the reasoning of Measure 11 supporters is that they assume that innocent defendants will be acquitted. Innocent defendants get convicted all the time."
(Printed as a Letter to the Editor in The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, September 7, 2000, p. D10.)
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