When the only way to go free is to plead guilty

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  • Published on:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018
  • A confounding case in Baltimore shows just how far prosecutors will go to keep a win on the books. Check out ProPublica’s feature story on the use of the Alford plea here: https://www.propublica.org/article/wh...In 1987 police detectives — who’d later be made famous by David Simon, creator of “The Wire” —  used flimsy evidence to pin a burglary, rape and murder case on James Thompson and James Owens. They were both sentenced to life in prison. Then 20 years later, DNA evidence cleared each of them of the rape and unraveled the state’s theory of the crime. But instead of exonerating the two men, prosecutors dangled the prison keys, pushing them to plead guilty to the crime in exchange for immediate freedom. What prosecutors offered was a controversial deal called an Alford plea. Last year, ProPublica investigated prosecutors’ use of Alford pleas and similar deals in cases of wrongful convictions, and found they often cover up official misconduct. Check out the story of the two Jameses above to see what happened after the Alford plea was offered in their cases. Subscribe to the ProPublica newsletter: http://go.propublica.org/weeklySubscribe to our channel! http://goo.gl/0bsAjOVox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com.Check out our full video catalog: http://goo.gl/IZONyEFollow Vox on Twitter: http://goo.gl/XFrZ5HOr on Facebook: http://goo.gl/U2g06o
  • Source: https://youtu.be/rwAyoX8D3YE


  • Vox


     a years ago +1183

    This video was made in collaboration with ProPublica. Our partnership has investigated drug companies, the environmental effects of an explosive used by the military, racial profiling by the Jacksonville, Florida PD, and more. Watch the other videos here: http://bit.ly/2BFMhc0

  • Gas, Games and Gripping History

    Gas, Games and Gripping History

     a years ago +3880

    Land of the free.
    terms and conditions may apply. Consulting your attorney to see if freedom is applicable to you.

  • Beach Looking Guy

    Beach Looking Guy

     a years ago +1986

    the real murderer is laughing their socks off. can you imagine doing something so terrible, and 2 other people take the blame! and it all started over a 1000 dollar reward

  • CJusticeHappen21


     a years ago +2298

    Am I supposed to feel sorry for Thompson? Because I do not.
    Feel bad for Owens, though.

  • MRLONG758


     a years ago +799

    So two innocent people went to jail for more than two decades because one was a greedy liar.

  • violentblood1


     a years ago +599

    Owens better get MILLIONS not a couple hundred thousand.

  • Simon Peters

    Simon Peters

     a years ago +428

    It is alarming, how the police just believes some random idiot and his incoherent story to imprison an innocent man..

  • Legion of Weirdos

    Legion of Weirdos

     a years ago +974

    Screw Thompson. He got himself in the situation by criminally misleading the original investigators and implicating an innocent man for murder in order to get $1000... anyone who says he's over-punished for "a simple lie" and/or "we all lie" is extremely misguided. Think about this, if you spent two decades in prison for someone's "simple lie" would you feel they should be given any leeway?

  • Dominique


     a years ago +485

    Happy he is apologetic towards Owens, but what about the family of the victim? He basically robbed them of justice over $1k.

  • kaingates


     a years ago +358

    Alford-plea should be unconstitutional. You can’t on one hand be able to plea the fifth but on the other hand force someone to say something they didn’t do to for the prosecutor to get an easier trial.

  • Hermes Agoraeus

    Hermes Agoraeus

     a years ago +158

    The most expensive $1,000 ever.

  • Rey Kenobi

    Rey Kenobi

     a years ago +467

    SO basically, an Alfred Plea is a manipulation of the system by which the State gets to save face and technically keep a win on the books by telling a wrongfully convicted man that we will free you right now if you plead guilty and give us a win on the books, else face years more in jail while your trail happens, and the crime in question remains unsolved in reality. That seems to be like textbook case of corrupting a system by designing loopholes that hides the State's mistakes and allows crimes to go unsolved.
    As for Thompson, He lies about finding the murder knife to earn a quick $1000, then gets into the thick of it by changing his story many times, gets convicted for the murder instead of just perjury and falsifying evidence AND then takes the plea bargain that would label him a felon even though he is innocent of the murder. Ain't got the brightest bulb on his shoulders, does he?

  • VigEuth


     a years ago +332

    Who's more to blame - a lower-class gasoline attendant who tried to make a quick $1000 and settle a score, or PROFESSIONAL investigators and prosecutors who knew his story was implausible and inconsistent and therefore made him a prime suspect? And then somehow convicted two men who were never at the scene of the crime?
    And James Owens should be getting something like $20 million, not $100k. He needs a good lawyer on his team right now, if he doesn't already have one working overtime to get him paid (and get the lawyer paid).

  • Next gen MLgamer

    Next gen MLgamer

     3 months ago +59

    Imagine spending half of your life in jail because your greedy friend framed you for a just $1000 🤦‍♂️

  • Wheelman GT

    Wheelman GT

     a years ago +92

    Goes to show that the state doesn’t really care about solving the crime and catching the ACTUAL perpetrator. They just want the record to show someone was officially found guilty.

  • LaMonaLisa


     a years ago +158

    Kept thinking owens was james franco

  • Rob Sorbo

    Rob Sorbo

     a years ago +75

    I don't feel bad for that guy. A permanent felony might be a little much, but he lied in court that led to a man (and himself) spending 20+ years in prison.

  • digit432


     a years ago +2430

    He's annoyed they never caught the real murderer, when in reality his lie is probably the biggest reason they never did. I do feel really sorry for Owens, but the other guy went to jail while trying to incriminate his totally innocent friend and make a quick buck. While also letting a real murderer get away. Don't get me wrong the police should have done a better job, but that doesn't absolve him.

  • Olvirki


     a years ago +49

    Why did it take 16 months for Owen to get a day in court? Evidence used to convict him (if I followed this correctly) was found to be invalid, shouldn't that be enough to free him automatically?

  • Seppes94


     a years ago +71

    This guy, who planted the knife deserved every Year he sat behind bars. Not only did he destroy the live of an innocent man, but also allowed the real murderer to get away, due to the police not making further investigations.