American Criminal Law Review Online
Kenny Johnson1 was thirty-two years old when he was released from a Baltimore City jail— almost three years after his arrest in October 2012. Johnson was not serving a sentence, but these three years were spent under pretrial detention. He had been denied bail. Johnson’s case was a rollercoaster of delays and uncertainty, particularly towards the end of his pretrial incarceration. The need for certainty convinced Johnson to plead guilty—he could not stand knowing that his pretrial incarceration could be indefinite and he wanted to be sure he was going home, guilty or not guilty.
Between the time he was arrested and finally released, Johnson’s case was postponed thirteen times. Johnson already had one trial in late 2013, but the jury did not deliver a unanimous verdict, resulting in a mistrial. At the start of his first trial, Johnson had already been incarcerated for over a year, significantly longer than what speedy trial laws in Maryland allow.2
After being held without bail for three years, Johnson had the opportunity to walk out free mid-August 2015. The catch—Johnson had to plead guilty to a crime he maintains he did not commit. If he accepted a guilty plea, he would be released from state custody and only serve three years of probation, becoming essentially a free man, reunited with his children and significant other. Unfortunately, going through trial again was a chance Johnson could not take. As he had seen the flaws in the system, pleading guilty became the most rational choice he could make.
Zina Makar, How the Right to Speedy Trial Can Reduce Mass Pretrial Incarceration, Am. Crim. L. Rev. Online (Nov. 5, 2015), http://www.americancriminallawreview.com/aclr-online/how-right-speedy-trial-can-reduce-mass-pretrial-incarceration/.