During the first few days of this Thanksgiving week, the Crime Story Podcast is taking a look back at some of the themes that have emerged in the posts at CrimeStory.com. Today our theme is “wobblers.”
In an editorial that we posted on October 8, Molly Miller and I wrote:
“Our dedication to examining systemic inequities in the criminal justice system drew us to defendants, their defenders, and their collective Sisyphean struggle against the power and the practice of powerful prosecutors. We were prepared — by the works of Emily Bazelon, James Forman, Jr., and Paul Butler among others — for the reality of the prosecutorial customs of seeking onerous bail terms, stacking charges and waving threats of multi-decade prison terms to force plea bargains that aren’t much of a bargain. But it’s come to our attention that judges in the Los Angeles criminal courts may have more power over the fate of defendants than we originally assumed, particularly during the hearing phase of criminal proceedings.”
Around that editorial, Molly wrote four stories that shared the exploration of one facet of this power dynamic: the way that so-called “wobblers” are handled.
According to the Nolo online legal dictionary:
“A “wobbler” isn’t a misdemeanor, nor is it a felony. It’s both. It’s a crime that prosecutors can charge as and judges can sentence as either a misdemeanor or felony… Prosecutors have the choice of whether to charge a wobbler as a felony or a misdemeanor. But even when prosecutors choose one over the other, judges typically have the final say.”
In this special “Crime Story Reprise Podcast,” we present all four of those stories in one episode.