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Suppose that someone is charged with a crime. Before they are arraigned, they negotiate with the prosecution about a potential plea bargain, but do not reach one and instead go to trial.

  1. During the trial, is the prosecution allowed to discuss any tentative plea bargains that were discussed with the defendant?
  2. Does the jury receive any instructions about whether or not they are supposed to consider any information about potential plea bargains that they may have learned, whether through or outside of the trial?
  3. Do the answers to questions #1 and #2 depend on how far the plea negotiations got before the parties decided to go to trial? For example:

a. The defendant discussed possible plea bargains, but neither party ever agreed to any.

b. The defendant offered a plea bargain, but the prosecution rejected it.

c. Both parties reached a plea agreement and non-publicly offered it to the judge, but the judge rejected it and the defendent decided to go to trial.

d. Both parties reached a plea agreement and announced it publicly, but then the judge rejected it and the defendent decided to go to trial.

  1. Are the answers to questions #1-3 the same for state and federal trials?

It seems to me that if the prosecution could reveal during a trial that the defendant had previously been prepared to plea guilty, then that could significantly influence the jury's determination of the defendant's guilt.

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During the trial, is the prosecution allowed to discuss any tentative plea bargains that were discussed with the defendant?

No.

In federal court, this is excluded from evidence pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 408. State courts generally have parallel rules of evidence.

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  • Re question #2: does the jury receive any instructions about whether or not they should consider any information about tentative plea bargains that they have may have received outside of the trial, e.g. in the case of a well-known figure? Aug 20, 2023 at 22:22
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    @VeryTinyBrain Juries are routinely directed to consider nothing other than what they are told in the courtroom and in the jury selection process, those jurors who know too much are screened out.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 21, 2023 at 1:50

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