Alan Cohen

In Baltimore's reception court, a behind-the-scenes look at how plea deals happen

In Baltimore's reception court, a behind-the-scenes look at how plea deals happen

In a packed Baltimore courtroom, Circuit Court Judge Charles J. Peters calls cases one by one, summoning prosecutors and defense attorneys to his bench. Under cover of a white noise machine, the lawyers are ready to deal.

The defendant in one case had been caught with a loaded .380 caliber handgun while smoking a marijuana blunt in an alley. Another was pulled over by officers who found an Uzi in the trunk. A third, a 17-year-old, bolted from a car and ran from police, who found a gun ditched nearby.

Prosecutors presented plea offers for each. Peters reduced the state’s offer in one deal, increased it in another, and approved a third unchanged.

The total...

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