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A Plea for what?

jane doe's picture

Renata accepts a plea. Venice accepts a plea.

Something rattles within me at those words. This is supposed to be good. Look at their smiling faces. Watch as she puts on clothes starkly different from her prison uniform. Take it in. Why aren’t you happy?

She accepted the plea. Her case was not dismissed. There was no justice for her.

That word plea picks at me. 

I recall the workshop this week.

Scene 4: The Prison - Being tried as an adult (Lawyer)


PD:  Hi. uh….(looking through files) Kareem.  I’m with the Philadelphia public defender’s office.  I’ll be representing you at your hearing next week.


K: Hi.


PD: As you know, the prosecution has a lot of evidence against you.  It’s not looking good, and if you go to trial you could get 40-80 years in prison.  The DA’s offering you a really good deal right now- 5-10 years, with 5 years reporting probation after your release.  It won’t get any better than that.  I think you should take it.


K: But I didn’t do anything.  It wasn’t me who did the shooting.


PD:  Then why won’t you tell the police what happened?


K: Are you serious?  I don’t snitch.  But how do they have evidence if I didn’t do it?


PD:  They’ve got witnesses who saw you there, the police arrested you around the corner from where the gun was found, you ran from the police…


K: Everyone runs from the police…


PD: Plus you’ve got a criminal history.  If you take the stand, they can bring up your juvenile record. That won’t look good to a jury.  Trust me, you don’t want to go to trial.  You’ve got a year in already- take the deal, and you can be out in four years.  You’ll be out by your 21st birthday.  That’s a lot better than being locked up until you’re almost 60.  And do you really want to put your mother through a whole long trial?


K: Ok, ok.  I’ll take it.  I just want to get this all over with as quick as possible.


What did Kareem do wrong?

He took the deal. That was the answer of almost every student. When further questioned, one elaborated: “Cuz I ain’t do nothing. If I knew in my heart that I’m innocent, I’m not taking that deal.”

I wanted to tell him that the system doesn’t care whether you did it or not and fighting it is an act of defiance and will be punished as such, but I don’t because I want to believe in the "sweat of love and the fire of truth."

I am trying to figure out what justice looks like, but since I’ve never seen it, I am not sure that I would recognize it if it slapped me on the wrists with handcuffs of my own.