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Constitution Day Lecture Discusses Criminal Justice Reform

Noted criminology scholar Jenia Turner speaks at CSU Sept. 19

Cleveland State University’s Cleveland Marshall College of Law will host a Constitution Day Lecture featuring noted criminology scholar and reform advocate Jenia Turner, Thursday, September 19. The event will discuss the plea bargaining system in the U.S. and efforts to make the process more transparent and inclusive.

The lecture will begin at 5 pm and will be held in the Law School’s Moot Court Room, at 1801 Euclid Avenue. The program is free and open to the public but registration is required.

Plea bargaining has long been the dominant method of resolving cases in U.S. criminal courts. Today, over 95% of convictions at the state and federal level are obtained through guilty pleas. Unlike the trials it replaces, however, plea bargaining remains notoriously opaque. It does not occur on the record in a public courtroom, and plea offers are often not documented or presented for public review. In fact, the final plea agreements are not always placed on record with the court. The opacity of plea bargaining stands in stark contrast with the constitutional commitment to publicity of criminal proceedings, enshrined in the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial and the First Amendment right of public access to the courts.

This presentation will review the main reasons for and against secrecy in plea bargaining, and how better documentation and greater transparency can enhance the fairness and public legitimacy of the process. It will also present concrete ways in which states and the federal court system can increase transparency in plea bargaining, while addressing legitimate reasons for confidentiality.

Jenia Turner is the Amy Abboud Ware Centennial Professor in Criminal Law at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law in Dallas, Texas. She has written numerous law review articles on criminal procedure and international criminal law topics, as well as the textbook, Plea Bargaining Across Borders, exploring plea bargaining in several national and international jurisdictions. She is also the co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Criminal Process and Criminal Procedures: Cases, Statutes, and Executive Materials.