«Real American justice is different from anything presented on Law and Order and Court TV,» says producer Ofra Bikel. «I know I was stunned when I realized that only 5 per cent of all convictions are due to jury trials. The rest will be settled by oral arguments. And these cases are not always to the advantage of the accused. In Brooklyn, New York, after admitting his guilt, Charlie Gampero learned that he had to confess all the details of the crime he had committed. ALBERT ALSCHULER, Professor of Law, U of Chicago: It`s very difficult when you`ve pleaded guilty. The guilty plea puts a lid on the box, regardless of what`s in the box. It is a system that was designed to protect the truth from the exit. The pleading negotiations have nothing to do with justice. It is linked to comfort, to the opportunity to make the lives of prosecutors and defence lawyers easier and more profitable. It was designed to avoid discovering the truth. This is to avoid hearing the accused`s story. NARRATOR: There is no greater difference than in a death penalty case, if the choice is between an admission of guilt with immediate release and a possible execution.
Narrator: Bruno Shimek, the lawyer for erma Faye, whose name appeared on her plea, did not remember her and could not find any recordings confirming that he had ever represented her. Can you tell the court why you`re late for this meeting, Mr. Cummings? JUDGE: If your name is called, if you do not have a lawyer and you want to appoint a lawyer because you cannot afford to do so, if you wish, we will see that you will have a lawyer. And Mr. Scissors, would you be up? This is Mr. John Schere. He`s the public defender of Crisp County. I will stand aside and give the public lawyer and the lawyers the opportunity to REGINA KELLY: My lawyer came to me and proposed 10 years of probation. And like I told him, I wouldn`t take it if I didn`t.
I did not do that. You have no proof, nothing. «Everything is screwed, and you still want me to tremble with them?» And I didn`t want to do it. He later returned with a five-year reprieve. The DA has gone from 10 years to 5 years. And I told him the same thing. And he would push me over and over and encourage me to take it, because if I went to court, I would be up from 5 to 99. ERMA FAYE STEWART: I was ready to plead guilty, even though I wasn`t guilty because I had to go home to my children. «One of the reasons a lot of people plead guilty is because they can go home that day because they`re on parole,» says Steve Bright, a defense lawyer and law professor who is the director of the Southern Center for Human Rights. «What they don`t usually take into account is that they are designed to fail.» «[The judge] told me it was empty – he said, «I`m going to give your son 25 to live, so you better plead, or if you don`t take the plea, he`ll have it,» said Charles Gampero Sr., whose son is in ninth grade in prison.
We took the plea thinking that the judge knew what he was talking about and my son would be home if he was 27 years old,» said Gampero senior. It didn`t work. ANNOUNCER: More than 95% of convictions are the result of a guilty verdict. If your name is called, please stand up and proclaim that you are here. Kevin Washington. Thank you very much. Rosemary Gonzalez — NARRATOR: That`s exactly what the prosecutor promised the victim`s father seven years earlier, when they agreed on the plea. But until then, Joseph Weingrad wanted to get Charlie Gampero out of prison and wrote a letter to the parole board.