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‘Why Innocent People Plead Guilty’ topic of Oct. 6 lecture

Jed S. Rakoff, a senior United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York and author, will deliver a free, public lecture in the Cannon Lecture Series titled “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty” Monday, Oct. 6 at noon, in the McQuade Law Auditorium at The University of Toledo College of Law.


Recently described in the New York Times as “a maverick jurist who picked a three-year fight to make the Securities and Exchange Commission tougher on a Wall Street bank,” and deemed by Rolling Stone as “a sort of legal hero of our time,” Rakoff is certain to deliver a lecture that is both lively and thought-provoking. In his lecture, Rakoff will show that criminal justice in the U.S. bears no relationship to what the Founding Fathers contemplated, or what we see on television. It has become overwhelmingly a system of plea bargaining, largely controlled by prosecutors, who can make it inordinately risky for even an innocent defendant to go to trial. As a result, Rakoff contends, as many as 10,000 or more innocent people are now in prison because they plead guilty to “lesser” offenses in order to avoid the risk of being convicted of crimes carrying much longer terms. After describing the current state of affairs, Rakoff will suggest some possible solutions. “Judge Rakoff has been willing to question long-standing legal policies and practices in ways that have prompted change,” said Daniel J. Steinbock, dean of the UT College of Law. “His take on sentencing guidelines and the plea bargaining they encourage is sure to be both stimulating and influential.” Rakoff has been a Senior United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York since 1996. Before joining the federal bench, he served as law clerk to Judge Abraham L. Freedman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and as an assistant U.S. attorney, where he was chief of the Business & Securities Fraud Prosecutions Unit in the Southern District of New York. He was also a litigation partner at the law firms Mudge, Rose and Fried, Frank. In addition, he is an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School where, since 1988, he has taught courses on white collar crime, class actions, the interplay of civil and criminal litigation and science and the courts. Rakoff received his bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College, a master’s degree from the University of Oxford and his law degree from Harvard Law School. He was awarded honorary degrees from Swarthmore College and Saint Francis University. Click here to download a photo of Rakoff. The Cannon Lecture Series was established in 1980 in memory of Toledo attorney Joseph A. Cannon through a generous gift from his family and friends. The lecture series is intended to provide an opportunity for the College of Law, the University and the greater Toledo community to host individuals of national prominence who, in discussing questions of law and society, will emphasize the humanistic dimension as well as the limitations of our legal system.

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