Criminal justice reform needed now, says Utah County attorney

Jul 13, 2021, 6:25 PM
criminal justice reform...
FILE -- Utah County Attorney David Leavitt speaks during a press conference at the Utah County Commission Chambers in Provo Wednesday January 23, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — Over-charging of defendants by prosecutors, plea bargaining, and the pandemic have all moved the US court system away from trial by jury, and that is not how the Constitution is supposed to work. Criminal justice reform is needed now, said the Utah County attorney.

David Leavitt, who has been outspoken on criminal justice reform, joined KSL Newsradio’s Inside Sources to explain why we shouldn’t over-charge people accused of a crime or condone prosecutorial misconduct.

Guest host and former prosecutor-turned-defense attorney Greg Skordas asked Leavitt what his vision of criminal justice reform would look like.

“We call it criminal justice reform because most people in the criminal justice system today have been around less than 30 or 40 or 50 years,” Leavitt said. “Those who have been at it longer would recognize it as more of criminal justice restoration.”

Under the US Constitution, juries decided if a defendant is guilty — not prosecutors — in order to move power away from the government and toward the people.

Plea bargains began during the Civil War, Leavitt said, and picked up momentum during Prohibition. 

“By the time we got to 1969, we’re plea bargaining 75% of our cases,” he said.

Leavitt added during the pandemic, jury trials were suspended, and today, nearly 100% of cases are plea-bargained.

He said prosecutors can over-charge a defendant to gain leverage in order to motivate the accused to plead guilty. 

“That’s just not our system. It places all the power in the hands of the prosecutor, and really who are hurt and damaged by that is all of us because we were losing our constitutional rights to a jury trial,” Leavitt said.

Skordas said receiving a jury trial today in the United States is almost impossible due to the  backlog of cases.

“The reason we avoid trials for the most part is because of this notion of plea bargain,” Skordas said. “I don’t like the word, either, but how does this streamline the process?”

Leavitt said as Utah County attorney his office has an obligation to give all defendants a speedy trial, but they don’t have that option because the courts are not allowing it, so an emergency measure must be taken to revive the court system. 

“To get this thing back on track, we’re simply going to have to . . .  get rid of a bunch of cases because we can’t mortgage our future to try and bail out from what happened with the COVID crisis,” Leavitt said.

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.

Inside Sources

Inflation caused gas to skyrocket....
Curt Gresseth

Sen. Mitt Romney talks inflation and economy

High home and gas prices and inflation, are causing real hardships for Utahns and Democrats will be blamed by voters, Sen. Mitt Romney told Inside Sources.
2 months ago
cheeseburger inflation...
Curt Gresseth

Why does my cheeseburger cost so much? Most ingredients touched by inflation.

A reporter joined the show and walked us through the reasons that popular cheeseburger ingredients have jumped in price since March of 2021.
2 months ago
A Utah woman shadowed lawmakers...
Curt Gresseth

Utah woman shadowed lawmakers to ease her political rage

Frustrated and angry with politics, a Utah woman shadowed state lawmakers to gain a better understanding of the process and to lower her own political rage.
3 months ago
a tax form, 1040, is often used to file taxes...
Curt Gresseth

What’s the holdup on my tax refund?

A tax expert talked to Inside Sources about new duties given to the IRS and why your tax refund is taking so long to arrive.
3 months ago
Homeless persons sit in a closed business on North Temple in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 6, 20...
Curt Gresseth

Everyone can do something to help, says advocate for homeless in Utah

Utah homeless advocated Pamela Atkinson said there are actions we can all take to help provide assistance to the unsheltered.
3 months ago
A U.S. plan takes off. An adjunct philosophy professor says a no-fly zone in Ukraine could spark WW...
Curt Gresseth

Why a no-fly zone over Ukraine would ignite WWIII

A no-fly zone over Ukraine would mean U.S. warplanes shooting down Russian fighter jets and that would lead to World War III, says a magazine columnist and philosophy professor.
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Criminal justice reform needed now, says Utah County attorney