No Plea Bargains for Cop Killer

There will be no plea bargaining in the case against the defendant accused in the killing of Brooklyn police officer Peter Figoski. According to the Daily News:

Brooklyn prosecutors said Tuesday they won’t cut any deals with the suspects in the slaying of hero cop Peter Figoski.

“This will be a trial,” Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said a few hours before the five men pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

“There won’t be plea bargaining in this case.”

I have to say, though, that it is always something of a head-scratcher when  prosecutors proclaim they will not plea bargain in a particular case. Usually they do so to sound “tough,” signaling that this case is so awful that they are going to take it extra-seriously, implying that in other presumably less important cases they are willing to take them less seriously and engage in plea-bargaining.

When the public or family of the victim declares they do not want plea-bargaining, I know that this belief flows from a common misunderstanding of what plea-bargaining is all about. The public believes plea deals are just about the DA being lazy and cutting back-room bargains to save themselves time and effort. The public thinks the only time the DA hands out a plea bargain is when he doesn’t want to go through the effort of taking the case to trial.

That’s what the public believes, but prosecutors know better and I’m always a little astonished when DAs say “there’ll be no plea bargaining,” as if to say this case is different from all the others.

I’ve gotten and offered thousands of pleas, and I can tell you that plea bargaining is not about the DA being lazy or about the defense attorney selling his client out cheap. Nor are plea bargains reserved for lesser, unimportant cases. There are simply times (and plea bargains are more common than trials) when a plea bargain is appropriate. Both sides have to want it; that’s why it’s called a bargain — it’s a contract entered into by both sides. If either side doesn’t want it, there is no bargain and the case then goes to trial.

To say “there will be no plea bargaining” in the case of Officer Figoski’s death is, in my view, simply a public relations move, not a legal decision. It is merely a sop thrown to, in this case, the police union and the victim’s family. It is intended to signal the DA is taking the case seriously. But is there really any worry here that the DA is not taking this case seriously? Of course not, so why pander to the mistaken belief that plea bargaining is somehow a less legitimate way of disposing of a case than trial?

 

 

 

 

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