revealnewsCh. 1: Bargaining for justice with #badpleadeals by @antoinegoldet:
On a stifling afternoon in the summer of 1996, Rodney Roberts pleaded guilty to a kidnapping. He had never met the victim, let alone held her against her will. Yet this is what he told the judge in the cramped Essex County courtroom. His court-appointed defender had convinced him his other choice was life in prison.
The state of New Jersey, Roberts was told, had overwhelming evidence that he had raped an East Orange teenager. Plead guilty to the lesser charge of kidnapping, he remembers public defender Charles Martone saying through the bars of the court’s holding cell, and the charge of aggravated sexual assault will be dropped.
Those were the terms of the plea deal reached behind closed doors between the prosecutor and Martone, whom Roberts had met only the day before. Now the two stood side by side, facing Superior Court Judge Eugene Codey.
Roberts thought about the jury that had found him guilty of sexual assault and sent him to prison a decade earlier – in the same courthouse. If he pushed for a trial this time, he feared he would be sent away for decades, maybe life. He felt trapped, by the system, by his past. “I knew I was innocent,” Roberts says today, “but I had to choose the lesser of two evils. It’s like you got to pick between Satan and Lucifer.” Roberts’ case is far from unique. More than a quarter of convicts who later end up exonerated through DNA evidence made a false confession or incriminating statements, according to data collected by the Innocence Project. “Did you hold … an individual age 17, with the initials S.A. against her will and prevent her from leaving with the intent to assault her?” Martone asked Roberts, according to the court transcript. Roberts said yes. “OK. That’s more than sufficient factual basis,” Codey said. “Did you move her anywhere?” “From one location to another,” Martone chimed in. “One … location to another?” the judge repeated.
Roberts remembers looking at Martone, who grinned back. He thought Martone and the judge knew something had gone wrong in the investigation. That was why they were being so reassuring. “Yes. Yes.” he said.
- mcubedphotoSuch important work you are doing, @revealnews
- sreber7Waiting for installment#2
- jlosc9@ourtownreno This is the first one. Incredible concept.
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