Recently the West Memphis Three, stood up in a courtroom, proclaimed their innocence even as they pleaded guilty, and, minutes later, walked out as free men. This is known as the Alford Plea or Doctrine. In an Alford Plea, the criminal defendant does not admit the act, but admits that the prosecution could likely prove the charge. The court will pronounce the defendant guilty. The defendant may plead guilty yet not admit all the facts that comprise the crime. An Alford plea allows defendant to plead guilty even while unable or unwilling to admit guilt. One example is a situation where the defendant has no recollection of the pertinent events due to intoxication or amnesia. A defendant making an Alford plea maintains his innocence of the offense charged. One reason for making such a plea may be to avoid being convicted on a more serious charge. Acceptance of an Alford plea is in the court’s decision. The Alford guilty plea originated in the United States Supreme Court case of North Carolina v. Alford (1970). Henry Alford had been indicted on a charge of first-degree murder in 1963. Evidence in the case included testimony from witnesses that Alford had said after the death of the victim that he had killed the individual. Court testimony showed Alford and the victim argued at the victim’s house. Alford left the house, and afterwards the victim received a fatal gunshot wound when he opened the door responding to a knock.
This made me think whether the thinking behind the Alford Doctrine could apply to divorce cases. In fact we probably do. We often have one party who does not agree to for example paying alimony. Under the Alford Doctrine the party would say I don’t believe I should pay alimony but in order to avoid something worse, I will pay it.
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