A run of contentious plea deals from a Minneapolis district attorney has infuriated the relatives of murder victims and caused anxiety among legal experts who believe the strategy may worsen crime.
“The types of plea deals offered by Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty are inconsistent with the demands of justice,” Tim Rosenberg, a Bradley fellow at Stanford University’s Constitution Law Centre, told Fox News Digital.
Families of crime victims told the Star Tribune earlier this week that the plea deals follow a pattern in which prosecutors want probation rather than jail sentences. They claim that the judicial proceedings have retraumatized them and that prosecutors tend to advocate for the defendant rather than the victim.
Sherrice Barnett, whose son was slain by a teen, said she was surprised when the defendant avoided prison time. Given the state criteria, she assumed that the only conceivable consequence was incarceration.
“I couldn’t breathe,” she told the Star Tribune. “I said, ‘I just got to get up out of here.’ I never would have imagined in a million years that it would have gone that way.”
Rosenberg seemed to agree with the mother’s viewpoint but pointed out that the people of Minneapolis voted against actively preserving the rights of victims and their families by electing a district attorney who would “coddle” offenders. He stated that they must now deal with the repercussions.
“Moriarty is an ideological prosecutor whose sympathies are with criminals, not victims, their families, or the innocent citizens of Minneapolis,” he added.
Minneapolis witnessed a decrease in homicides, shootings, and carjackings in 2022 for the first time in three years. Despite the drop, which occurred amid major police manpower shortages, the city is still far above the crime average in the decade preceding 2020.
Rosenberg anticipated that prosecutors such as Moriarty’s conduct would inspire criminals and set off a “corrosive cycle of disinvestment” in the neighbourhood.
Moriarty, who spearheaded a progressive campaign focusing on equity and rehabilitation, was recently chastised by a colleague attorney, Catherine Markey, whose son was murdered by a gang of teens.
“It’s a trend definitely because of Mary Moriarty. She’s still playing public defender—the only thing is, that’s not her role any more,” Markey told the Star Tribune.
Moriarty admitted in a Friday interview that her new work is “completely different” from her previous experiences.
“I think it takes a lot of courage to actually act upon what you say you’re going to do. I knew we would get a lot of pushback,” she told the Star Tribune. “But if you’re truly going to make change, if you truly care about your values and you want to have integrity and you believe in research and look at the data, these are the right decisions and I stand by them.”
Moriarty’s office did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.
According to Min Hwan Ahn, Esq., a New York Attorney, plea offers provide an opportunity to speed legal proceedings, conserve resources, and occasionally reduce prospective penalties. However, he stated that these agreements must not jeopardise the “imperatives of justice” and accountability.
“To maintain trust in the justice system, it’s pivotal that district attorneys strike a balance between pursuing justice, ensuring public safety, and upholding defendants’ rights,” he said. “This dynamic is ever-evolving and should be adjusted based on public sentiment and the unique circumstances of each case.”
Moriarty’s plea bargains have been received with criticism from members of her own staff. In November, a family expressed their displeasure after two adolescent brothers were handed probationary plea agreements in connection with the death of Zaria McKeever. The agreement was reached in exchange for testimony against the guy accused of planning the attack.
One prosecutor objected to the decision and resigned from the case. She eventually walked out of Moriarty’s office.
Some of Moriarty’s choices appear too soft even for Democratic Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is supported by billionaire George Soros.
Zaria McKeever was murdered in 2022 by two teen brothers hired by her ex-boyfriend. Prosecutors had asked for both adolescents to be tried as adults, but Moriarty offered them probationary agreements instead.
Moriarty’s move, according to Ellison, was “disproportionate to the seriousness of the crime.”
“While I share the belief that too many juveniles are involved in the adult criminal justice system, accountability for the seriousness of this crime has been missing in this case,” Ellison wrote.
Jordan Deontre McFarland and Monte Dondada Wise, two teenage males, were accused in June after a man was shot and murdered inside a parked car in Minneapolis. While Moriarty’s office wants to pursue prison time for McFarland, Wise could face up to two years in a juvenile correctional facility followed by probation.
According to Ben Michael of M & A Criminal Defence Attorneys, the inequality in treatment of the two boys may represent a “bigger issue.” Moriarty, he reasoned, must have a comprehensive understanding of the motivations and dynamics involved in such a move.
“Plea deals are, perhaps unfortunately, a major part of our modern justice system,” he said. “The entire legal system, from prosecutors to public defenders to judges, is hugely overworked. Because of this, legal professionals turn to plea deals in order to get cases dealt with quickly so they can get to the next one.”