After you are charged, the plea deals come pretty quickly. It’s the way we do justice in the US. It is estimated that 98% of cases charged end in a plea deal, so it is expected that you will plead. You will plead. It is a dance between your criminal defense attorney and the prosecutors. How well can you negotiate with the prosecutors? If someone is having a bad day, the results might not be as good or a good day and it might work out better than expected. It feels like a game, but it’s my life.
Say you did “x” and plead guilty, cooperate, tell the truth, and you might get 3 years instead of 8 years. That kind of thing. Somehow, you become a number or a thing; your humanity is obscured.
What exactly does cooperating look like? If you plead guilty and weren’t really cooperating, what happens to the plea agreement? If you plead guilty and don’t tell the truth, what happens to the plea agreement? You exchange a plea agreement for a perjury charge?Who decides if you aren’t cooperating? If you were asked to testify and didn’t testify in a way that was considered to be cooperating, are there consequences? If you cooperated to the point that it was obvious that you weren’t guilty, is there a chance that it could make a difference in your plea deal?
All these thoughts are running through my head at the speed of light. The only way I felt like I could ever consider pleading guilty is as a strategy for the Government to understand the truth and dismiss the charges/plea agreement. That sounded like it could only happen in a movie, not real life.
The premise is that you plead guilty, get punished and help punish anybody else that was involved. I knew that no one needed to be punished, so I just couldn’t plead for that reason too.
I decided if I were a cooperating Government witness for so many reasons, it wouldn’t go well.
I don’t think I ever knew what anyone expected me to “get” if I actually did plead guilty to something. I found it offensive that by pleading guilty I would potentially serve less time in jail than if I was found guilty by a jury. Am I missing something? Were the facts different, isn’t that what “we” based punishment on? The huge disparity of time between what punishment I would get by me saying I was guilty versus having the jury finding me guilty is supposed to lure me into signing the plea deal. Confess. The facts never changed, just how our system would treat me. A plea deal was a distraction.
Prison. It’s time away from your life, your family, your work, and whatever you thought you might do in your life. The time that you never get back. It’s your soul too. Who can you be and who will you be once you have stepped into prison? You are forever changed.
For someone that is guilty, a plea deal is a way to take some of the sting away even though you did commit a crime. You are guilty. You admit that you broke the law.
For someone, like me, that was innocent, a plea deal is a punishment for something I didn’t do and time away from my family, dreams and responsibilities… lessons I would never get a chance to teach my children, work I got educated to do would not be accomplished and personal relationships would suffer. All because I am being told that I did something I didn’t. Was I willing to agree with them to get this over? Was I willing to say my life is a lie? All the things that I said mattered, truth, ….was I a lie?
You are given one life and with that life, you define who you are and by your actions, people see what you stand for. If the truth mattered, there could be no plea deal. The end.
I would like to say that I was 100% always convinced that I shouldn’t take a plea deal, but that would be a lie. This case lasted longer than most and there were multiple times that I was offered a plea deal. I wanted desperately to never think about taking a plea deal. My attorney felt a responsibility to keep telling me that I needed to consider the options. The absolute toughest times were watching my kids and letting my mind wander to …what am I going to miss of these three children’s lives while I sit in jail? Will I be a part of their lives at all if the worst happens? Ugh! I felt so defeated. When I decided to have kids I made a promise to myself to be the best Mom I could and now this.
There was a point where Dan, my attorney, insisted on bringing in my sister and husband to “talk some sense into me”. Dan sensed that people closest to me could find words he hadn’t to reach me and convince me that a plea deal should at least be more seriously considered than I had shown him I was willing to do. One night, we all got together and discussed the plea deal as Dan insisted. I could see my sister’s and husband’s faces drop as they learned more details than I had shared with them. I am not sure if Dan just knew that I would be found guilty or he didn’t want to go to trial or what, but Dan heavily recommended a plea deal. I think he genuinely was looking out for me. On the other hand, Dan never took away my hope. That was clear but unspoken.
I didn’t know how very deeply I was committed to the truth until I kept being asked to plead. After all this was over, however it turned out, I had to live with myself and I had to make the decision that let me do that, no matter the consequences.
I became increasingly offended by the thought of a plea deal.
Friends and family would kindly let me know that it was okay if I plead guilty. After all, I had three kids and they needed me. Everyone would understand. But, I didn’t understand. I didn’t think that was right. I wasn’t going to let someone else define me, so there could be no plea deal.
One of the very few truly steadfast people I surrounded myself with during the case was my father’s sister, my Aunt. (My father had died of a brain tumor just a year or so before the case began.) There are rare people in your life that love you, respect you and you can talk about really tough things well. Calmly and as though my Aunt was feeding my soul, she said to me after I got the plea deal that …my father never walked away from the truth. That’s all I needed to cement my decision. Dad would have said that to me. It sounded just like him. Since he wasn’t on this earth anymore, my Aunt was his mouthpiece. I made my decision.
How long will you delay what you are capable of doing to remain comfortable?