(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) joined Representatives Ted Deutch (FL-22), Kelly Armstrong (ND-AL), and Veronica Escobar (TX-16) and 44 colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter urging the Department of Justice to review whether a criminal defendant received a "trial penalty" as the President considers clemency petitions.
Trial penalties are the sentences issued for criminal defendants that are harsher than what had been offered in exchange for a guilty plea. As the letter states, "Instead of accepting a guilty plea, a criminal defendant decides to pursue their 6th Amendment right to a jury trial. The trial penalty results in a significantly longer prison sentence than those imposed on more culpable defendants who voluntarily waive their constitutional right to a jury trial."
In the letter, the Members of Congress cite a 2018 study by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers which found that 97% of criminal cases are resolved in a plea. "This strongly suggests that the risk of going to trial is too great for all but 3% of federal criminal defendants," the Members write.
The letter was co-signed by Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers, James P. McGovern, Eliot L. Engel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Brian Fitzpatrick, Brad Sherman, Jamie Raskin, Ben McAdams, Jerrold Nadler, Karen Bass, Hakeem Jeffries, Steve Watkins, David N. Cicilline, Mark Walker, Yvette D. Clarke, Tim Burchett, Joseph P. Kennedy, III, Madeleine Dean, Adriano Espaillat, Steve Cohen, David Trone, Brian Mast, Ted Lieu, Mark E. Green, Ted S. Yoho, Mark Meadows, Vicente Gonzalez, Cedric Richmond, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Nydia M. Velázquez, Troy Balderson, Daniel P. Meuser, John Lewis, Bill Foster, Barbara Lee, Alcee L. Hastings, Terri A. Sewell, Bill Pascrell, Jr., Jan Schakowsky, Lucy McBath, Morgan Griffith, Greg Steube, Jody Hice, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, and Sean Patrick Maloney.
The letter is available here.