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  Posted on: Monday, July 2, 2012
St. Louis Courts, Prosecutors, Defense Seek Solution to Clear Clogged Criminal Dockets
ST. LOUIS • Court officials are hoping prosecutors and defense attorneys can hash out plea agreements in as many as 100 cases this week as part of an effort to unclog one of the slowest-moving felony court dockets in the state. But there's no guarantee deals will be struck. Already, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce's office has objected in 18 cases in which a defendant wants to plead guilty without a deal in place - so-called "open pleas" before a judge, who would have broad discretion in sentencing. On the surface, it's an odd situation: a prosecutor resisting the requests of defendants to plead guilty, without a reduction in charges or the promise of a break in sentencing. The reluctance reveals the political sensitivity of the initiative, which has sparked fear of a reprise of the court's controversial "rocket dockets" of the 1990s, when defendants were given breaks in exchange for pleas in assembly line fashion, routinely during the July 4 holiday week.
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