This past March, the United States Supreme Court rather quietly effected what one commentator called “…the single greatest revolution in the criminal justice process since Gideon v. Wainwright provided indigents the right to counsel.” (New York Times, March 21, 2012) While such pronouncements always involve risk of exaggeration or over-simplification, there is no doubt that the decisions in Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. — (2012) and Lafler v. Cooper, 566—- (2012), at least carry the potential to measurably impact how plea bargains are negotiated and entered in our state and federal courts.
It is commonly accepted that the right to a trial by jury is a principal protection afforded a criminal defendant. The right is, of course, enshrined in the Constitution. But it is also widely endorsed by the popular culture. There is no shortage of movies and other entertainment (some good, some middling, although I have always gotten choked up at the end of “12 Angry Men”) that purport to portray a group of citizens gathering to pass final judgment.