Russia’s Imprisonment of Britney Griner Has Some Unfortunate American Parallels
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order declaring international hostage-taking a national emergency. The order came in the wake of national outrage over the imprisonment of WNBA player Britney Griner, who was imprisoned in Russia this February on charges that she was found in possession of cannabis vape cartridges. Griner, whose trial is ongoing, faces up to 10 years in a Russian labor camp if convicted. In May, the Biden administration formally declared Griner wrongfully detained.
Her arrest has sparked indignation nationwide. “[Griner’s] prospects—and the chances she will receive anything resembling impartial treatment—are profoundly concerning,” wrote The Washington Post editorial board this March, “The fact that Ms. Griner is gay—she is the first openly gay athlete to be endorsed by Nike—is cause for even deeper worry given that LGBTQ people face open hostility and repression from Russian authorities.“
While outrage over Russia’s court system is warranted, such criticism is also warranted here in the U.S. For instance, after Griner pled guilty to Russian drug charges on July 7, The Independent reported that Russian courts have a 99 percent conviction rate and that Griner, all but guaranteed to lose at trial, may have pled guilty in order to negotiate a shorter sentence.
However, according to Pew Research Center, only 2 percent of cases go to trial in U.S. federal courts. Ninety percent of cases involve guilty pleas, and 8 percent are dismissed. Of the 2 percent of cases that go to trial, 83 percent of defendants are convicted. According to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, “about 90 to 95 percent of both federal and state court cases are resolved” through plea deals. As in Russia, defendants in the U.S. must make a disturbing gamble: Plead guilty, even if you aren’t, to get a lower sentence than your charges would suggest; or, fight
Article from Reason.com