Herreth Law
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Plea Negotiations Broke Down. . .Is Trial Next?

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Nearly all criminal cases in Parker County - over 90 percent by one count - never reach trial. Instead, prosecutors and defendants agree on a plea deal. This arrangement usually involves reduced charges and/or a lower sentence.

If plea negotiations break down, the case will probably go to the trial docket. But that doesn't necessarily mean there will be a trial. Sometimes, criminal cases literally settle on the courthouse steps or right before jury selection begins. Other times, there may be another option.

Open Plea

Most plea bargains are agreed between the prosecutor and defense attorney. The judge has the final word and s/he can refuse to accept the arrangement. But that only happens in very rare cases (maybe one in a thousand) and the "no" is usually not a firm "no." Instead, the judge usually says something like go back and negotiate some more because the current arrangement is unacceptable.

If there is no agreement, an open plea is still a possibility. The defendant pleads guilty before the judge and then asks the judge to impose punishment. Sometimes, this process just involves "throwing yourself on the mercy of the court." Sometimes, it's much more involved. Attorneys make arguments, present evidence, and cross-examine witnesses.

Open pleas are sometimes good in cases like DWIs or assaults that have strong political implications. Judges face these same pressures as well, but the stress is not nearly as acute.

Slow Plea

This process is a lot like an open plea. But the defendant asks a jury, instead of a judge, to assess punishment.

Slow pleas involve everything about a jury trial except for the guilt-innocence phase. The lawyers select the jury then usually see the defendant plead guilty or no contest. Then, the punishment phase begins. Defendants usually introduce evidence of mitigation and prosecutors usually call crime victims to testify.

There are several advantages. For example, any evidence about guilt/innocence is usually inadmissible. So, the jury will probably never hear something like the gory details of a violent crime. Of course, that dynamic could work the other way as well. The jurors may only know that the defendant was involved in a bank robbery. They may not know that she was only a lookout.

If the defendant has absolutely no legal defense but is very sympathetic, slow pleas are usually a good idea. In other circumstances, they are almost as risky as trials.

Criminal defense attorneys bring all their experience to bear in jury cases. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle cases in Tarrant County and nearby jurisdictions.

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