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Will the Court Punish You for Exercising Your Right to Trial?

The U.S. criminal justice system affords Americans many rights, but the system is far from perfect. In the wake of Matthew Martoma's nine-year prison sentence for insider trading, members of the criminal justice community are shaking their heads in disapproval. In a recent Forbes article, one author asked a simple question: Wanting a jury trial isn't a crime, so why does the court treat it like one? The question stems from a plea bargain that prosecutors offered Martoma. If Martoma plead guilty, he could shaved trim years off of his sentence.

In fact, Forbes said that, had Martoma taken a plea bargain, the sentence reduction would be a assumed. In short, the court would have granted him a small credit for accepting responsibility for the crime. But exercising one's right to a jury trial isn't a crime, so why does the court punish defendants for it?

Some members of the criminal justice community believe that this phenomenon is controlled by prosecutors, who habitually manipulate sentencing in federal trials like Martoma's. Plea bargains, in essence, dangle a reward in front of defendants who plead guilty and reprimand those who want a fair trial. This system gives considerable power to the prosecutor.

In a recent federal drug case, a man was offered a 16-year prison sentence plea bargain for weapon possession and marijuana trafficking. If the defendant refused, he would face an additional 89 years of incarceration, 105 years total.

According to federal law, sentences should not exceed the time needed to ensure retribution and rehabilitation. If prosecutors believed that 16 years was enough time to accomplish these goals, then how can the court justify an additional 89 years of incarceration? The answer is clear: the criminal justice system punishes defendants who want a fair trial.

Sadly, these manipulative negotiations are common, and the ramifications of excessive sentencing is obvious – overcrowded corrections facilities, swollen government budgets, etc.

At The Hammer Law Firm, we are committed to helping defendants seek justice in court. As former prosecutors, attorneys Mark Hammer and Nicole Chiravollatti know how the prosecution thinks. With this understanding, our firm creates powerful strategies for each client. To learn more about your legal options with our law firm, contact The Hammer Law Firm, LLC today.


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