Ohio Judge Michael P. Donnelly is disgusted with plea bargains and he is fighting back, reported the Columbus Dispatch.
“It’s sidestepping the truth. It’s legal fiction, nothing more than a lie,” said Donnelly, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge. “No one can defend this process. There is no ethical defense.”
With Donnelly leading the charge for change, the Ohio Supreme Court — unless legislators object — could amend court rules to require charges in felony plea deals to be factually based — to reflect what actually occurred.
“Ending the charade” would promote transparency and foster public accountability in the justice system, Donnelly said. “We can't be allowing pleas to something that everyone knows didn’t happen.”
The court’s rules commission has advanced the proposal by moving to seek public comment on the changes in Criminal Rule 11 as part of the early steps of a lengthy process leading to approval or rejection.
The Ohio Judicial Conference, which represents the state’s judges, is on board with the change, calling “often convenient” plea agreements “contrary to the objectives of the justice system.”
Advocates for sexual-assault victims also support the change, saying pleas to lesser, unrelated offenses leave victims’ trauma unacknowledged and victims feeling “like the justice system let them down.”
Donnelly calls plea deals not based in fact a “serious public-safety issue” that allow some offenders to escape prison and sex-offender registration and hide the seriousness of their crimes.
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