Law Offices of Michael T. Nolan, Jr.

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Plea deal rejected because of lobbying by victim's family

A man who was slated to be sentenced in connection with a 2010 murder will now face a jury trial for his alleged crime. The man, who had initially entered a plea bargain, was expected to receive 30 years' prison time for his involvement in the felonies. A judge in the case decided that plea bargain was unacceptable, though, considering the heinous nature of the alleged crime. That means that the entire process is starting over again, according to case attorneys.

The man, who was a registered sex offender, is charged with stabbing a 22-year-old woman with a pocketknife during a September 2010 attack.

Family members had campaigned to have the plea deal reversed, according to local media sources. District attorneys were accused of failing to read all of the case details, settling on a 30-year prison term before consulting all relevant documents. Relatives of the young woman, along with local lawmakers, have been pressuring the courts to reject the man's guilty plea.

They say the man should spend the rest of his life behind bars for the crime. He is currently 30 years old. A 30-year sentence would allow his release at age 60. Family members say that is simply unacceptable.

Guilty pleas generally provide suspects with lighter sentences because of their confessions. Prosecutors and government attorneys are more likely to view guilty pleas as favorable, and they often pursue plea bargains with individuals who are willing to admit to their alleged crimes.

It is questionable whether this surprising turn of events is fair to the accused. Though the families of victims naturally have the right to make their opinions heard, judges in such situations should take care to determine whether the family's argument is legal and just, or simply retaliatory.

Plea bargains are an important tool for the justice system that allows courts to work through their cases more quickly. Trials are lengthy, expensive and unpredictable; rejecting a plea bargain takes a case that could have been quick and clean and sends it into months of litigation.

Family members are now pushing for at least a 45-year prison term. Interestingly, the introduction of the jury trial could permit the man to walk free if the jury finds him not guilty.

Source: The South Jersey Times, "Deptford softball star Nicole Ayres murder case to go to trial; judge rejects plea deal," Jessica Bautista, Nov. 8, 2012

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