In a rare ruling, a judge recently struck McIlvride-Lister’s guilty plea on her request, saying that it resulted in a miscarriage of justice.
Criminal defence lawyers say that while guilty pleas are a necessary tool to keep the overburdened justice system in motion, there can often be overwhelming incentives that push innocent people to plead guilty.
“If we start imprisoning innocent people for expediency because of resources, what does our system mean really?” said Laura Joy, a lawyer who represented McIlvride-Lister on a motion to strike her guilty plea (but not on the plea itself).
From the bail process onwards, lawyers say there are a number of factors that can motivate people to plead guilty even when they’re not. Criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt said it isn’t uncommon for someone in custody, who would be released if they plead guilty, but would have to wait weeks or months for trial if they insist they’re innocent, to pursue a guilty plea.
“In those cases even if you’re innocent, it can often be an overpowering incentive to plead guilty, especially when the case may appear at first glance strong,” said Spratt, who was not involved in the McIlvride-Lister case.
Read Alex Robinson’s full article: MostOfUs