From “What If Zimmerman Had Been Indigent,” Matthew Yglesias, Slate:
“What if George Zimmerman had been poor? What if his legal case hadn’t attracted national attention and raised over $300,000?
“What if Zimmerman, like most criminal defendants in the United States, was relying on a public defender with little emotional or financial investment in winning the case and no resources with which to pursue a robust defense even if he’s been inclined to do so. Wouldn’t that defender have told Zimmerman that the smart way to avoid a second-degree murder sentence was to plead guilty to manslaughter and work out terms of incarceration that would be less onerous than what he’d end up with if he fought and lost?
“Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a very difficult evidentiary burden to meet if the state is facing off against a competent, well-financed, and highly motivated defense team. But all these people sitting in America’s prisons…aren’t losing at trial. Instead 97 percent of federal cases and 94 percent of state ones end in plea bargains. People ask me sometimes why nobody’s gone to jail for crimes related to the financial crisis. It’s a complicated question, but obviously part of the answer is that you’re not going to resolve a criminal fraud case against a multi-millionaire by railroading him into a plea agreement.”