Plea Bargaining in the American Justice System
Using a Clip from the film American Violet
Subject: U.S. 1991 - Present; Civics; Plea Bargaining;
Ages: 13 + : High School Level;
Length: Film Clips: First 31 minutes of the film; Lesson: one and one-half 45 - 55 minute class periods.
Excerpts from the Complete Snippet Lesson Plan
Learner Outcomes/Objectives: Students will learn about plea bargaining, the policy decisions on which it is based, and some of the problems with the practice. Students will address the issues raised by plea bargaining through class discussion and writing assignments.
Rationale: The U.S. criminal justice system is primarily a system of plea bargains. 95% of all persons prosecuted for crimes in the U.S. end up pleading guilty in return for reduced charges or a lighter sentence. This lesson plan will provide students with a vivid illustration of the strong pressures that are brought to bear on defendants to agree to a plea bargain, regardless of whether they are guilty.
Description of the Film Clip: The movie is a fact-based account of a young African-American mother who is arrested in a racially motivated drug sweep. She is innocent. In the film clip she resists pressure to agree to a plea bargain.
USING THE FILM CLIP IN THE CLASSROOM
The full Snippet Lesson Plan contains discussion prompts for an introduction and for a post-viewing discussion that focus on the process of plea bargaining and the public policies served or compromised by the practice. The lesson plan contains a checklist of points that should be raised in the discussion following each prompt. The Snippet Lesson Plan also contains suggested essay and research topics.
The Snippet Lesson Plan is accompanied by supplemental materials containing discussion questions for the entire movie and a special lesson plan for AP and honors classes complete with a Post-Viewing Enrichment Worksheet.
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According to the U.S. Supreme Court the American criminal justice system is a system of pleas rather than a system of trials. 95% of criminal cases are resolved by plea bargains. This film clip from American violet will give students a visceral sense of plea bargaining in action. The discussion prompts will give teachers a way to explain the plea bargaining process to their classes in Civics and American History.
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