How Plea Bargains Made Jury Trials An Anachronism In The U.S. | KUOW News and Information

How Plea Bargains Made Jury Trials An Anachronism In The U.S.

Sep 9, 2015

"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Thomas Paine in 1789.

That sentiment begs the question: Would Jefferson recognize the United States justice system today?

Ninety-seven percent of criminal cases in the U.S. result in plea bargains that do not determine guilt or innocence. Only 3 percent go to trial by jury. 

How did the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury in all criminal prosecutions, with the assistance of counsel, become an anachronism?

Seattle attorney Kelly Vomacka has answers to these questions. She’s a criminal defense lawyer with extensive knowledge of how plea deals work. 

Vomacka is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and Seattle University and the founder of Solanus Casey Legal Services. She’s working on a book about legal jurisdiction.

Vomacka spoke at the 7th annual Smoke Farm Symposium on Aug. 22. Smoke Farm is a program center and events venue run by the Seattle-based nonprofit organization Rubicon Foundation. 

Photo credit: "Blind Justice 3," by Mark Treble on Flickr (CC BY NC 2.0)