SNIPPET LESSON PLAN FOR:
Plea Bargaining in the American Justice System
-- An Introduction Using a Clip from the film American Violet
Subject: U.S. 1991 - Present; Civics; Plea Bargaining;
Ages: 13+ (MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material, violence, drug references
Length: Snippet: 31 minutes; Lesson: One and one-half 45 - 55 minute class periods.
Learner Outcomes/Objectives: Students will learn about plea bargaining, the public policy decisions on which plea bargaining 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: This film is a fact-based account of a young African-American mother arrested in a racially motivated drug sweep by a Texas county District Attorney. She resists pressure to agree to a plea bargain.
Note to Teachers: For a Post-Viewing Enrichment Worksheet for AP or honors classes see American Violet Supplemental Materials.
2. Select the discussion questions and the suggested assignments to use in the lesson. Think about having an attorney speak to the class about plea bargaining and some of his or her experiences with plea bargaining. If you find someone, give the attorney the discussion portions of this lesson plan to guide his or her presentation.
Using the Snippet in Class
1. Introductory Discussion
Start the class by asking students to define plea bargaining and to describe a situation that they know about in which someone was offered a plea bargain. Guide the class discussion to at least the following points, supplying the information if the class cannot respond to the questions:
Tell the class that after the film clip, there will be a discussion about the benefits and costs of the plea bargaining system to persons accused of crimes, to prosecutors, and to society.
2. Show the first 31 minutes of the film, ending when Dee Roberts' friend takes a plea, although she was innocent, and is allowed to go home. Dee then sinks to the floor of the cell with her head in her hands.
3. After the clip has been shown, ask students what constitutional rights the accused person gives up when he or she takes a plea bargain. Here are a few rights that should be included in any discussion; again if the class cannot supply the answers, the teacher can provide the information:
Supplemental Materials on a Different Web Page:
|Ask the class to identify the competing public policies involved in whether or not to allow plea bargaining. Guide the discussion to cover the following points, supplying any information that the class cannot provide:
Ask the class about the interests of each stakeholder that are served by the plea bargaining system. The stakeholders are the prosecutor, the accused person, victims and society as a whole. Guide the discussion to cover the following points:
Ask the class to state the policy choices made by society when it adopted a justice system based on plea bargains. Guide the discussion to cover the following points, supplying information if the class cannot provide it:
Finally, ask the class if they agree or disagree with the choices that society has made with respect to plea bargains and to support their conclusions.
|The snippet starts at the beginning of the movie and runs through the scene in which Ms. Robert's friend accepts a plea bargain and is released. Stop the film right after Dee sinks to the floor of the cell, her head in her hands. This is about 31 minutes into the film.
Possible Problems with this Snippet: None.
What about showing the whole movie? It's a great idea! See Note to Teachers at the top of this Snippet Lesson Plan.
Students can be asked to write formal or informal essays on the following topics:
Essays are to be written according to the essay rubric established in class. When paragraphs are called for, they should be written according to the rubric for paragraphs established in class.
Select questions that are appropriate for your students.
Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more . . . Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.
Parenting Points: Your child may be viewing the film ancillary to assignments in classes requiring him or her to read the play. You may want to engage in conversation about the differences between the play and the film or about the connection between witch hunts and various historical events.
Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.
Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.
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