The Houston Chronicle had a great article backin February about the growing number of individuals who served time after pleading out of a drug case; often these deals were presented with an expiration date, a kind of ‘take it now, or or it’s going to get worse’ type of thing.
The problem is that sometimes, when the lab report on the cases came back (well after the individual had begun to serve their time), the tests would reveal that there were never any drugs involved, or that the amount was too small to have warranted a charge.
You may remember Carlos Coy mentioning that he was offered a plea deal, only five years for confessing to the charges revolving around Jill Odom and Jane Doe. In his words, "I told my lawyer, “I’ll take ten years for my son, but I won’t say I did something that I didn’t do.”
Some will say that the drug pleas are small cases; that they are meaningless. The problem is, the attitude that allows this can and will extend into other other areas. Sgt Ryan Chandler of the HPD is currently being investigated for failing to investigate the cases he was given; those cases were typically homicides and the deaths of children.
This was an ongoing problem, ignored and perhaps covered up by his peers and superiors; he refused to testify in court about these cases because apparently, he refused to put in the work. How many citizens were railroaded into plea deals without ever seeing a courtroom because an officer simply didn’t feel like doing the legwork involved in the case?
How many of those currently in prison are there because they'd rather serve two years for a crime they didn't commit than ten for the same thing? How many who refused to take the "easy" path ended up spending long years in prison because of a lack of even a cursory examination of their cases? Who thought that they had nothing to fear from a trial because, "Hey, the police are going to look into this and figure out the truth!"?The respect that so many of us hold for The Law, The Police, and The Experts is never challenged by the revelation that these institutions are made up of human beings.
It’s a no-win situation; take a plea deal and serve a lttle time for a crime you didn’t commit, or demand your right to a trial and face a justice system system that has shown time and time again that it doesn’t give a shit for the presumption of innocence.