In this essay I shall address the modem American system of plea bargaining from a perspective that must appear bizarre, although I hope to persuade you that it is illuminating. I am going to contrast plea bargaining with the medieval European law of torture. My thesis is that there are remarkable parallels in origin, in function, and even in specific points of doctrine, between the law of torture and the law of plea bargaining. I shall suggest that these parallels expose some important truths about how criminal justice systems respond when their trial procedures fall into deep disorder.
John H. Langbein, "Torture and Plea Bargaining," Crosskey Lectures, No. 4 (1978).
October 19, 1978