Saved by the Plea: Avoid the Death Penalty
When you are defending yourself against serious criminal charges, it might seem counter-intuitive that the best thing you can do for yourself is to plead guilty. That is especially hard if you know, in your heart, that you are 100 percent innocent of the crime. But ironically, even in that case, putting aside the natural urge to clear your name might be the only way to save your hide.
If your criminal defense attorney believes you have a serious risk of being found guilty at trial of a capital crime — the kind that can earn you the death penalty — you may be well advised to seek a plea bargain. In most cases, that means you agree:
- To plead guilty to a lesser charge
- To enter a guilty plea to the charges as they stand in exchange for a less severe sentence such as life in prison
Sometimes it works — sometimes not so much. Take a look at the recent case of James Holmes, charged with multiple counts of murder in the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Colorado. Prosecutors scoffed when the attorney for the defendant offered to have him plead guilty in return for a sentence of life in prison. The prosecutors are determined to seek the death penalty. Given the high visibility of the case and the widespread horror it evoked among people all over the country, the prosecutors probably fear that if they were to settle for anything less, they would be the ones having to defend their names.
If you are charged with a capital crime in Ohio and your attempt at a plea bargain is rejected, do not lose hope: You can still be found not guilty. Failing that, you can try to join the list of those who left Death Row in their rear-view mirror courtesy of the governor. On the Capital Punishment page of the Ohio corrections department website, the word commuted appears at least a dozen times.