Gabriel Kahn

Gabriel Kahn is a writer for the Wall Street Journal.

Recent Articles

Special Report: The Crime Debate

I n places as diverse as Anchorage and El Paso, Nassau County and New Orleans, get-tough prosecutors are promising to ban plea bargaining. Too many criminals get off easy, they insist; take away plea bargains, and more will get the punishments they deserve. But these officials may want to consider what happened in the Bronx when prosecutors there tried the same thing. The ban clogged the courts, made for less speedy justice, and may actually have returned more guilty defendants to the street. Although the very mention of plea bargaining conjures up images of shifty defense lawyers, it was actually a prosecutorial invention borne of pragmatism. By the middle of the nineteenth century, prosecutors, disenchanted with an increasing rate of acquittals, turned away from chancy jury trials and toward plea bargaining, where they could secure convictions for the apparently modest price of easing the charges. By 1860, with the advent of municipally controlled police departments, caseloads had...