Dennis Returning to Court Case Spotlights Plea Bargaining

By Kinner, Derek L. | The Florida Times Union, August 17, 1999 | Go to article overview

Dennis Returning to Court Case Spotlights Plea Bargaining


Kinner, Derek L., The Florida Times Union


In the often acrimonious world of the criminal justice system, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges agree on one thing: Without plea bargains, the system wouldn't work.

"You need plea bargains or else you'll shut the courthouse down," Jacksonville defense lawyer Thomas Fallis said. "It's absolutely the only way the system can function."

State Attorney Harry Shorstein agreed.

"If every defendant demanded his or her right to a jury trial, the system would break down immediately," Shorstein said.

But sometimes, as in the federal theft case against state Rep. Willye Dennis and her daughter, a proposed plea bargain can backfire if a judge refuses to go along with a negotiated sentence.

As a result, Dennis is scheduled to be back in court today to face charges.

Usually, as part of plea agreement negotiations, federal prosecutors agree to recommend to judges the sentence they want defendants to receive. But the agreements aren't binding on judges. And most deals require defendants to accept whatever sentences judges ultimately hand down.

In Dennis' case, however, the agreement hinged upon whether she and her daughter received sentences of less than a year of house arrest.

When U.S. District Judge Harvey E. Schlesinger refused Thursday to be tied by the agreement, it left the door open for Dennis, D-Jacksonville, and her daughter to withdraw their pleas.

Dennis is scheduled to appear in court today to say whether she still intends to plead guilty and leave sentencing up to Schlesinger, or go to trial. She and her daughter, Wilene Dozier, face up to 10 years in prison under federal statutes.

Schlesinger, who has often complained in court proceedings that lawmakers have taken away the bulk of judges' sentencing discretion, indicated he thought prosecutors were trying to take away even more of his responsibility in the Dennis case.

"Congress has said we have certain sentencing guidelines; now I have a plea agreement that says, `Judge, this is what you'll do in this case,'" Schlesinger said in a July 30 hearing.

U.S. Attorney Charles R. Wilson wouldn't comment specifically on the Dennis case because it is continuing. But he said yesterday plea agreements in general are an important part of the justice system. He acknowledged it is rare for prosecutors to ask for a specific sentence. Usually they recommend a sentencing range and leave the decision to the judge.

"Every case is different," Wilson said.

In state court, judges often join in plea negotiations by saying what sentences they would be willing to impose. But federal judges are prohibited from participating in plea negotiations.

"It doesn't happen very often, but the court always has the prerogative not to accept a plea agreement," said defense attorney Gray Thomas, who works mostly on federal cases. "Then you have a choice, either renegotiate an agreement that might be acceptable to the court or go to trial or plead guilty straight up."

In Dennis' case, she and Dozier acknowledged in proposed plea agreements they pocketed $19,700 in government grants meant for their Northside day care, Fam-Co Learning and Development Center.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Dennis Returning to Court Case Spotlights Plea Bargaining
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.