Day: November 4, 2014

R.I.P. Tom Magliozzi

One Half of the Jovial Brothers on ‘Car Talk’ Dies at 77: ‘Tom Magliozzi, who with his younger brother, Ray, hosted “Car Talk,” for years the most popular entertainment show on NPR, died on Monday at his home outside Boston. He was 77.The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, NPR said.The weekly hourlong “Car Talk,” which was broadcast for more than 30 years, was ostensibly about mechanical problems with cars, but the format was mainly an excuse for the brothers, known as Click and Clack, to banter with callers about the mysteries of life, as viewed through an automotive prism: Why does a car suddenly stop working? Should I give this clunker one more chance? Why won’t my husband pay for a mechanic to fix our car? (via NYTimes.com).

Why Innocent People Plead Guilty

Via The New York Review of Books: ‘The criminal justice system in the United States today bears little relationship to what the Founding Fathers contemplated, what the movies and television portray, or what the average American believes.

To the Founding Fathers, the critical element in the system was the jury trial, which served not only as a truth-seeking mechanism and a means of achieving fairness, but also as a shield against tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson famously said, “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.”

The Sixth Amendment guarantees that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.” The Constitution further guarantees that at the trial, the accused will have the assistance of counsel, who can confront and cross-examine his accusers and present evidence on the accused’s behalf. He may be convicted only if an impartial jury of his peers is unanimously of the view that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and so states, publicly, in its verdict.

The drama inherent in these guarantees is regularly portrayed in movies and television programs as an open battle played out in public before a judge and jury. But this is all a mirage. In actuality, our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight. The outcome is very largely determined by the prosecutor alone.

In 2013, while 8 percent of all federal criminal charges were dismissed either because of a mistake in fact or law or because the defendant had decided to cooperate, more than 97 percent of the remainder were resolved through plea bargains, and fewer than 3 percent went to trial. The plea bargains largely determined the sentences imposed.’