Last week I gave you a plot bunny (big city cop in a small town!), and here I am with another. This one will work pretty well if you want a sympathetic protagonist with a criminal record.
Here are the facts. About 95% of criminal cases never make it to trial. The primary reason for that is plea bargaining, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty—often to lesser charges—in exchange for a reduced sentence. (For more on plea bargains, check this previous post.)
Plea bargains offer a lot of potential benefits. The defense attorney has a lighter caseload. So does the prosecutor—who also gets another conviction credited to her. The courts have fewer cases, resulting in less expense and less backlog. And guilty defendants get a lighter punishment.
But. What if the defendant is innocent? What if he honestly didn’t commit the crime, but his defense attorney comes to him with a deal from the DA: plead guilty and spend, say, 5 years in prison, or go to trial and risk getting convicted and spending even longer locked up? What if the stakes in this gamble are really high—as in a potential life sentence? What’s our poor, innocent hero going to do? Well??
(Incidentally, that handsome plot bunny was drawn by the very talented Catherine Dair. You should check out her other work!)