When the only way to go free is to plead guilty

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  • Published on:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018
  • A confounding case in Baltimore shows just how far prosecutors will go to keep a win on the books.

    Check out ProPublica’s feature story on the use of the Alford plea here: https://www.propublica.org/article/what-does-an-innocent-man-have-to-do-alford-plea-guilty

    In 1987 police detectives — who’d later be made famous by David Simon, creator of “The Wire” —  used flimsy evidence to pin a burglary, rape and murder case on James Thompson and James Owens. They were both sentenced to life in prison. Then 20 years later, DNA evidence cleared each of them of the rape and unraveled the state’s theory of the crime. But instead of exonerating the two men, prosecutors dangled the prison keys, pushing them to plead guilty to the crime in exchange for immediate freedom. What prosecutors offered was a controversial deal called an Alford plea. Last year, ProPublica investigated prosecutors’ use of Alford pleas and similar deals in cases of wrongful convictions, and found they often cover up official misconduct. Check out the story of the two Jameses above to see what happened after the Alford plea was offered in their cases.

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  • Vox  (Feb 21, 2018)

    This video was made in collaboration with ProPublica. Our partnership has investigated drug companies, the environmental effects of an explosive used by the military, racial profiling by the Jacksonville, Florida PD, and more. Watch the other videos here: http://bit.ly/2BFMhc0

  • c. j. macq  (Jul 3, 2018)

    there's the old saying; you want justice? go to a whorehouse. you wanna get screwed? go to court! I've been telling people for decades that prosecutors, nationally, have OVER a 95% conviction rate. how is that possible? its through the scam of plea bargains. they kidnap innocent people, torture them for months and offer a deal that if they plead guilty to a lesser charge they aren't guilty of they can go free! and that's precisely what happened to me. even the arresting cop said I should've never been ...

  • Joanne O Neill  (Jun 29, 2018)

    blackops2096 I agree with you that thompson did things wrong things that make my blood boil. But the system knew what he was doing and they went along with his lies. God only knows what was going on in his life at the time but it must have been messed up for him to do such a thing. He was a messed up man when he destroyed both their lives. The system and courts are there because they are not supposed to be messed up but when the system knows that a man is lying to get money and they turn a blind eye a...

  • Legion of Weirdos  (Feb 21, 2018)

    Screw Thompson. He got himself in the situation by criminally misleading the original investigators and implicating an innocent man for murder in order to get $1000... anyone who says he's over-punished for "a simple lie" and/or "we all lie" is extremely misguided. Think about this, if you spent two decades in prison for someone's "simple lie" would you feel they should be given any leeway?

  • imani2114  (Feb 4, 2019)

    lying isn't a felony, and he doesn't seem to be the sharpest tool in the shed. the detectives and prosecutors used, mislead, and tricked a man that knew no better, just so they could get out of actually doing their job and finding the real murderer.

  • Land of the free.*terms and conditions may apply. Consulting your attorney to see if freedom is applicable to you.*

  • Haziq  (Jul 16, 2018)

    Gas, Games and Gripping History no one is freezing

  • CJusticeHappen21  (Feb 21, 2018)

    Am I supposed to feel sorry for Thompson? Because I do not.Feel bad for Owens, though.

  • Zees Chan  (Feb 10, 2019)

    probably Thompson is the real culprit, thats the main reason he lied

  • gregor18  (Dec 12, 2018)

    +Yaria Samavan Carlan well 21 years plus not being able to life a normal life is a bit to much for a lie don't you think so?

  • digit432  (Feb 21, 2018)

    He's annoyed they never caught the real murderer, when in reality his lie is probably the biggest reason they never did. I do feel really sorry for Owens, but the other guy went to jail while trying to incriminate his totally innocent friend and make a quick buck. While also letting a real murderer get away. Don't get me wrong the police should have done a better job, but that doesn't absolve him.

  • Adam Edward  (Dec 8, 2018)

    Snitches get stitches lying snitches get beat to death in the biblical sense

  • Irving Brown Jr.  (Nov 11, 2018)

    ChrisFarmer in another case I agree with you. This freaking idiot went and manufactured evidence and motives he told several different stories to the police to implicate his friend. He’s almost an eyeball witness. I believe we get older and learn from our mistakes. This guy in a fit of rage tried to have someone else imprisoned.

  • Science with Katie  (Feb 21, 2018)

    How scary that you can lose so much time from your life for something you had nothing to do with, I felt really bad for Owens. I hope he gets compensated for the life he lost.

  • Carlitox b  (Feb 8, 2019)

    nobody can compensate his time, his life and what he had to pass trough

  • Julia Diaz-Young  (Feb 5, 2019)

    He's getting 9 million! It won't take back the years he's lost but hopefully, he uses it to found his program for innocent prisoners.

  • Beach Looking Guy  (Feb 21, 2018)

    the real murderer is laughing their socks off. can you imagine doing something so terrible, and 2 other people take the blame! and it all started over a 1000 dollar reward

  • Pariya Ahmadi  (Jul 9, 2018)

    Beach Looking Guy yeah. Someone who had nothing to do with anything. A stranger who pops out of the blue and takes the fall for you

  • Map Wolf  (Feb 21, 2018)

    Yeah, it's so tragic. Honestly, it might even be a flaw in the system itself, and this is why a lot of people, including myself are skeptical of government/police investigations or any sort of "ads" that might offer a reward. It feels like you are forfeiting your privacy and rights if you get involved.(Like how there might be scam artists who might get you to sign a deal, and thus losing your rights unknowingly... until it's too late.)

  • Dominique  (Feb 21, 2018)

    Happy he is apologetic towards Owens, but what about the family of the victim? He basically robbed them of justice over $1k.

  • Bunker Sieben  (Nov 14, 2018)

    Sorry works for spills on carpet, not for throwing another person's life away!

  • violentblood1  (Feb 21, 2018)

    Owens better get MILLIONS not a couple hundred thousand.

  • Barbie Kat  (1 day ago)

    Owens received $9 MILLION in settlement from the city of Baltimore!

  • Rey Kenobi  (Feb 21, 2018)

    SO basically, an Alfred Plea is a manipulation of the system by which the State gets to save face and technically keep a win on the books by telling a wrongfully convicted man that we will free you right now if you plead guilty and give us a win on the books, else face years more in jail while your trail happens, and the crime in question remains unsolved in reality. That seems to be like textbook case of corrupting a system by designing loopholes that hides the State's mistakes and allows crimes to go...

  • Tom  (Feb 11, 2019)

    The Alfred please sums up alot of what is wrong with the US judicial system

  • UBERMENSCH  (Dec 7, 2018)

    It also works the other way around. The original Alford guy did commit the crime he was charged with, and there was irrefutable evidence, but he pleaded guilty to a lesser crime to avoid the death penalty. A more recent example is the DaddyOFive couple, who should've faced jail time for child abuse, but are just on probation.