Copyright (c) 2005 The Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University
Stanford Law Review
BOOK REVIEW: Uncertain Bargains: The Rise of Plea Bargaining in AmericaPlea Bargaining's Triumph: A History of Plea Bargaining in America. By George Fisher
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.
57 Stan. L. Rev. 1721
Jennifer L. Mnookin*
The reality of modern-day criminal trials is that they are almost as rare as the spotted owl. While the idea of the adversarial trial, and in particular the idea of trial by jury, remains an iconic aspect of the American legal system, the sheer fact is that criminal jury trials, if not truly on the endangered species list, are nonetheless becoming ever less common with each passing year. In theory, trial by jury remains a cornerstone of our system of justice: fans of the jury system emphasize its capacity to check the tyranny of the state, the legitimacy that comes from a popular restraint on the administration of punishment, and of course the Tocquevillian notion that "the jury, which is the most energetic means of making the people rule, is also the most efficacious means of teaching it how to rule well." 1 And, to be sure, the public continues to hear a great deal about criminal trials, or, more precisely, about a relatively small handful of sordid and sensational ones. With Court TV's gavel-to-gavel coverage and the enormous press attention devoted to a handful of high-profile (and of course highly atypical) criminal cases like that of O.J. Simpson or, most recently, Scott Peterson, the criminal trial has itself become a form of infotainment. These media spectacles, however, while perhaps helping the criminal jury trial to retain a powerful hold over our shared cultural imagination, bear almost no practical relation to the actual criminal processes faced by most ...
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