Are There Too Many Plea Deals?

Jul 27, 2017

Judge Joseph Goodwin at a recent naturalization ceremony.
Credit Sam Owens / Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP

Here’s what happens 97 percent of the time in federal court: a plea deal. The defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser offense, and the prosecution gets a guaranteed conviction.

But earlier this month, Judge Joseph Goodwin rejected a plea deal for a drug dealer, saying the defendant should face the “bright light” of a jury trial. He said this is especially important in West Virginia, which has the highest drug overdose rate in the country.

“A court should consider the cultural context surrounding the subject’s criminal conduct,” he wrote. “Here, that cultural context is a rural state deeply wounded by and suffering from a plague of heroin and opioid addiction.”

On this week’s Front Porch, lawyer Laurie Lin explains what makes Goodwin’s statement so extraordinary.

Also, we discuss President Trump’s address to Scouts in West Virginia, Sen. Capito’s big Obamacare decision, and why Pluto doesn’t wear pants, and what it says about what makes us human.

Welcome to “The Front Porch,” where we tackle the tough issues facing Appalachia the same way you talk with your friends on the porch.

Hosts include WVPB Executive Director and recovering reporter Scott Finn; conservative lawyer, columnist and rabid "Sherlock" fan Laurie Lin; and liberal columnist and avid goat herder Rick Wilson, who works for the American Friends Service Committee.

An edited version of “The Front Porch” airs Fridays at 4:50 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio network, and the full version is available at wvpublic.org and as a podcast as well.

Share your opinions with us about these issues, and let us know what you'd like us to discuss in the future. Send a tweet to @radiofinn or @wvpublicnews, or e-mail Scott at sfinn @ wvpublic.org

The Front Porch is underwritten by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Charleston Gazette-Mail. Find the latest news, traffic and weather on its CGM App. Download it in your app store, and check out its website: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/