Plea bargains save time and money but are too easily abused.
THE elements that make up a criminal-justice system are familiar from a thousand courtroom dramas. Detectives interview witnesses and examine crime scenes. Forensic scientists coax secrets from bloodstains and cigarette ash. Judges and juries weigh the facts and pronounce on guilt and innocence.
Plea bargains 辩诉交易
criminal-justice system 刑事司法体系
Forensic scientists 法证专家
But in many countries, behind this system lies a quicker, rougher one. It is plea-bargaining, in which prosecutors press lesser charges or ask for a lighter sentence in return for a defendant pleading guilty or incriminating others. Long crucial to the operation of American justice, this shadow system is now going global. One study of 90 countries found that just 19 permitted plea bargains in 1990. Now 66 do. In many countries, including England and Australia, pleas now account for a majority of guilty verdicts. In American federal courts the share is close to 100%.