An outside judge was recently brought in to help resolve a murder case in Klamath County...and that trend towards mediated settlements in criminal cases is likely to continue.
Aaron Harrison recently pled 'guilty' to a charge of felony murder, and was sentenced to life in prison.
That plea was reached through a mediated settlement.
Klamath County Circuit Court Judge Cameron Wogan notes that a mediated settlement differs from a plea bargain...
"The only difference is you use a judge, or somebody as a mediator to help you reach a negotiated settlement."
Prosecutors note that mediation can help resolve cases that have 'stalled'.
"It's been almost two years since this incident happened." Said Klamath County Deputy District Attorney Sharon Forster, referring to the Harrison case. "And to have closure without a trial, for the family, and to be able to move on is great."
Judge Wogan notes that mediation is also easier on the taxpayer. "It generally costs a lot less money to get a negotiated settlement than to do a trial."
Mediation in criminal cases is on the rise. One reason is the way attorneys are trained.
"The graduates coming out of law school now, they've been taught a lot of mediation, arbitration classes in law school." Points out Judge Wogan. "They didn't even offer that stuff when I was in school."
Wogan cautions that while mediated settlement agreements are becoming an increasingly popular alternative, they're not for every case...
"Where it doesn't work is if the parties, in either civil, or criminal are just really entrenched in their positions. Some cases just have to be tried. That's what we have trials for."
Judge Wogan says the 'buy in' by both parties may be the biggest advantage to mediation, as opposed to a trial where there's a winner and a loser, with an outcome forced upon one of the parties.