21 April, 2008
On April 21, three US lawyers from New Jersey – regional court judge Stanley Richard Chesler, defense attorney Richard Coughlin and the prosecutor Marc D. Larkins visited the Supreme Court to discuss the application of plea bargaining in the pre-trial process.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Andris Gulans when telling his colleagues from America about the standards of the Latvian Criminal Procedure Law and the latest legislation initiatives stressed that, in his opinion, Latvia also needs a more extensive application of plea bargaining.
The guests told that in USA plea bargaining during the pre-trial process is applied for about sixty years already, and a prosecutor is rather free in his actions. The judge Chesler pointed out that on the federal level and in separate states there are different models. For example, in federal courts if the accused admits his guilt, the plea bargaining is settled between the attorney and the prosecutor, it is recommending for the court, however, the judges are free to decide upon the punishment. And, in some states there is a practice that the plea bargaining is settled jointly by the attorney, the prosecutor and the judge, but in other states a judge may decline plea bargaining, as well. When asked which model is more effective the guests noted that each of them is effective in the specific environment because both the local peculiarities and the court work load is taken into account.
Plea bargaining in USA may be applied regarding all the categories of cases, however, the specific result of plea bargaining depends on the type of the case in question, the stance of the prosecutor, the individuality of the accused and other circumstances.
However, it is essential that the US court system expects that a person who enters into plea bargaining to receive a lighter punishment, admits his guilt, thus the persons who are ready to cooperate know that they would not be completely released from punishment.
The participants of the discussion also talked about the cases in which it is possible to receive full immunity which in the US mainly occurs when a person himself agrees to cooperate, before evidence is collected against him. Then the witness protection program plays a very significant role.
At the end of the discussion both the Latvian and American representatives agreed that no system is perfect, however, as in this country such a procedure is only at the very initial stage, it is very valuable to learn experience of other countries. The Chairman of the Department of the Criminal Cases of the Senate Pavels Gruzins, the Chairman of the Chamber of Criminal Cases Ivars Bickovics and the Head of Administration Anita Kehre participated in the discussion from the Supreme Court.
The visit of the US experts in Latvia is arranged by the US Embassy. Within the framework of the project, on Wednesday a discussion is organized in the Riga Graduate School of Law, and the Chairman of the Department of Criminal Cases of the Senate Pavels Gruzins and the senator Valda Eilande are invited to take part in it.
Information prepared by
Head of the Division of Communications of the Supreme Court Rasma Zvejniece
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone: 7020396, 28652211