Volume 57
Issue 1
Winter '20

"Shadows" Cast By Jury Trial Rights on Federal Plea Bargaining Outcomes

Written By: Andrew Delaplane

Abstract

In this Note, I argue that the spirit of the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial has been lost for plea bargaining federal defendants in our “system of pleas.” But this does not have to be the case. A theory of criminal procedure focused on the right to a jury trial is not necessarily out of date. Robust jury trial rights could conceptually cast shadows on the plea bargaining process. This Note does not purport to have an answer to how the spirit and purpose of the Sixth Amendment right should apply to a system of pleas. It does, however, take an important first step by demonstrating the conflict between the spirit of the jury trial right and its application to plea bargaining.

Part One discusses the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial and the law govern-ing judicial fact-finding at sentencing. More specifically, it discusses the Apprendi line of cases from the Supreme Court. Part Two introduces the shadow of the trial model and outlines arguments of both proponents and critics of the model. Part Three addresses the “shadows” cast by Sixth Amendment jury trial rights. I ana-lyze how jury trial rights conceptually alter the costs and risks associated with trial, but conclude that the shadows from these rights have not been realized in practice. This Note concludes by finding that the “spirit” of the Apprendi cases has been effectively circumvented, so the majority of federal plea bargaining defendants do not benefit from these holdings.

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