FORCE WRITTEN PLEA BARGAINS
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This petition is to push for legislation that will force all prosecutors to put all plea offers in writing and to serve a copy of the written plea agreement to both the defense attorney and the criminal defendant. The push for change in this area of the criminal justice system is derived from a sad case in State of Florida vs Sean Reilly.
Sean, a first time offender and college graduate, wants to make sure that the injustice that happened in his case does not happen to anyone else. In Sean's case, the prosecutor extended a plea offer, in person, to Sean's defense attorney; specifically, the prosecutor offered to drop all charges in exchange for no contact with his accuser. Such an agreement is typically referred to as a "deferred prosecution agreement". Unfortunately, however, the agreement in this case was never made in writing, and the defense attorney never communicated this offer in any way to Sean or his family. Perhaps this is because his defense attorney had a large case load and simply dropped the ball. But either way, the attorney's failure is inexcusable. Indeed, there was even evidence of unanswered emails from Sean to the attorney where Sean expressed interest in negotiating for a plea that would allow him to further his education and pursue his career. Sean explained that he did not want a felony conviction on his record. In another email, Sean expressed that he would not take a plea for a felony, but would accept a plea for a misdemeanor. Nonetheless, at this point, the prosecutor refused to negotiate, believing that Sean rejected the offer of dropping all charges, i.e., the deferred prosecution agreement. This doesn't makes any sense...Who would turn such an offer down?
Ultimately, after losing in trial, Sean received a total of 15 years in prison. He has now served about 10 years of that sentence. While in prison, Sean has filed complaints to the Florida Bar against the prosecutor and his trial lawyer, regarding any misrepresentations in his case. Significantly, it was through the Florida Bar proceedings that Sean actually learned about the deferred prosecution agreement. Sean and his family were devastated to find out that he had missed out on such an opportunity, realizing that all the years in prison and all the wasted taxpayer dollars could have and should have been avoided.
Consequently, Sean has spent most of his youth and formative years incarcerated. His family has suffered also. Sean made an attempt to compel the Florida prosecutor to re-offer the plea of dropping the charges. Sean's post-conviction attorney demonstrated in court that there was an offer to drop all charges, Sean's trial attorney did not have the offer in writing and did not convey the offer to Sean or his family. Sean's email in which he expressed willingness to accept a misdemeanor conviction supports his contention that he would have taken the plea to drop all charges. However, the post-conviction judge concluded, based on his knowledge of the trial attorney's reputation, that the deal was offered to Sean and that he rejected it. There was no evidence to support the Judge's decision. This decision is currently being appealed.
Sean's case is a terrible example of the criminal justice system lacking integrity, compassion, humanity and fairness. Sean, therefore pleads to the court of public opinion to have mercy and sign this petition to compel the prosecutor in his case to re-offer the plea to drop the charges, i.e. the deferred prosecution agreement, overturn his convictions and set him free.
It is Sean's hope that your support will move the Florida Legislature to enact a new law that will require all prosecutors to put all plea offers in writing so as to avoid any future injustices as happened in this case. The law should also require prosecutors to serve copies of the written plea offer to both the defense attorney and defendant and the offer should have to be signed as accepted or rejected by all parties involved. This would ensure that all plea bargains remain honest.
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