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New York Times cites Professor Ronald Wright on the frequency of plea bargains

Professor Ronald Wright

Ron Wright is one of the nation’s best known criminal justice scholars. He is the co-author of two casebooks in criminal procedure and sentencing; his empirical research concentrates on the work of criminal prosecutors.

For years, the nation’s highest court has devoted the majority of its criminal justice efforts to ensuring that defendants get a fair day in court and a fair sentence once a trial is concluded. But in two decisions on Wednesday, the Supreme Court tacitly acknowledged that it has been enforcing an image of the system that is very different from the real, workaday world inhabited by prosecutors and defense lawyers across the country. 

In that world, 97 percent of federal cases and 94 percent of state cases end in plea bargains, with defendants pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. Courtroom trials, the stuff of television dramas, almost never take place.

Ronald F. Wright, a professor of law at Wake Forest University, said that for generations plea bargains have been the rule rather than the exception, “and the Supreme Court has, until the last two or three years, found a way to ignore that.”

Read the full story here.