PHOENIX - Arizona’s top judge says he wants a new task force to recommend ways to improve the transparency, fairness and consistency of plea bargains between criminal defendants and prosecutors, a process that accounts for 90% of the convictions and penalties imposed by the state court system.
An order signed June 2 by Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel creates a 19-member task force on plea bargains, sentencing and dispositions.
Brutinel acknowledged that plea bargains are negotiated primarily by prosecutors and defense attorneys. But he said judges have an oversight role to ensure that the agreements are voluntary, complete and accurately recorded in court records.
Specific topics assigned to the task force include compiling demographic data, developing implicit bias training for attorneys negotiating plea agreements and finding ways to do more to advise defendants of the possible consequences of guilty pleas.
Brutinel named Supreme Court Justice John R. Lopez as chair of the task force. Other members include trial judges, defense lawyers, prosecutors and court administrators and clerks.
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