The Marshall Project

I Wish I’d Pleaded Guilty to Murder

Exercising my right to a jury trial cost me years of my life.

Back in 1995, when I was 20 and very, very stupid, I was arrested and charged with open murder. That’s a term used in Michigan to mean that a prosecutor can wait to decide whether they'll try to convict you of first- or second-degree murder, or manslaughter.

Sometime early in that process, my lawyer passed on a message from the district attorney representing our great state. They wanted to know whether I'd testify against my co-defendant, he told me. Having been the one who actually , I politely declined. I often wonder how many guilty men and women across this nation snatch up those types of deals each and every day, condemning who knows how many innocent souls to decades (or possibly lifetimes) of abuse, neglect and despair

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