One of the defendants in an unusual case in Wisconsin recently accepted a plea bargain according to Courthouse News Service (CNS). In May of 2014, two teenage girls attempted to kill their friend in an effort to “appease Slenderman, a fictional horror character.” The victim survived her wounds and the teens were subsequently arrested. According to CNS, this week one of the two teen perpetrators, Anissa Weier, plead guilty to “attempted second-degree intentional homicide as a party to a crime, with use of a deadly weapon.” Though she has pleaded guilty, Weier is still going to trial in September. However, the trial will focus on “whether she is legally responsible for the crime or not guilty because of mental disease or defect.”
It is not unusual for criminal cases to end in a plea bargain. In fact, most criminal cases are resolved by a plea bargain rather than by a trial. A 2011 report by the Bureau of Justice Assistance stated that “While there are no exact estimates of the proportion of cases that are resolved through plea bargaining, scholars estimate that about 90 to 95 percent of both federal and state court cases are resolved through this process.”
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), plea bargaining is common for a number of reasons including that “defendants can avoid the time and cost of defending themselves at trial, the risk of harsher punishment, and the publicity a trial could involve.” The prosecution also avoids the cost and time that trials can take. In addition, with a plea bargain, both parties know what is going to happen in the case. Trials can be unpredictable as there is no way to tell what a jury will end up deciding. Moreover, the ABA points out that the “court system is saved the burden of conducting a trial on every crime charged.”
Typically, as in Weier's case, the plea bargain will involve the defendant pleading to a lesser charge than the one he or she was initially facing. In addition, it could involve the defendant pleading to a smaller number of charges then were in the original indictment or pleading guilty to the charged offenses in exchange for a recommendation from the prosecution that the sentence be more lenient. Plea bargains can include any number of different terms and conditions as well, such as requiring the defendant to complete community service as a condition of the plea.
Whether or not accepting a plea agreement is in a defendant's best interest will depend on the facts and circumstances of his or her case. Sometimes a plea is determined to be the best course of action, as it was in Anissa Weier's case, while other times a defendant may determine that going to trial is their best option, as Weier's co-defendant, Morgan Geyser has decided.
If you are facing criminal charges in Washington, you want a competent and skilled criminal defense attorney, like Steve Karimi, on your side. Don't face the criminal justice system alone; contact the Law Offices of Steve Karimi today to discuss your case.