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Using Evidence to Determine Guilt or Innocence

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Presentation on theme: "Using Evidence to Determine Guilt or Innocence"— Presentation transcript:

1 Using Evidence to Determine Guilt or Innocence
Chapter 3 Using Evidence to Determine Guilt or Innocence

2 Evaluation and Review of Evidence
The rules of evidence ultimately decide what evidence will be presented to the judge and jury for evaluation. Evidence may be evaluated in a variety of settings at various stages of the investigatory and criminal court process. There are many settings where the rules of evidence do not apply. In the process of review and evaluation of evidence, weaker cases are filtered out of the system or lesser charges are used.

3 Team Review of Evidence
Some jurisdictions utilize a team review of evidence. This has resulted in a higher clearance rate by law enforcement. The team approach increases communication and exchange of information, thereby increasing efficiency.

4 Goals of the Criminal Justice System
To discourage and deter people from committing crimes; To protect society from dangerous and harmful people; To punish people who have committed crimes; and To rehabilitate and reform people who have committed crimes.

5 The Criminal Court Process
The filing of a criminal complaint with a magistrate or other judicial official is how a typical misdemeanor case begins. The complaint can be filed with the court before or after the defendant is placed under arrest depending of the case.

6 Criminal Court Process
The judge will review the complaint and will determine if probable cause exists to believe a crime has been committed and that the named defendant committed it. The defendant appears before the judge at the initial appearance (arraignment) and the charges are read; a plea is entered and bail is set.

7 Criminal Court Process
If a felony is charged in the criminal complaint, a preliminary hearing will be held. The case can commence by the filing of an information. In many states and in federal courts, the indictment system is used for felonies instead of public prosecutors issuing criminal complaints. If sufficient evidence is introduced to show probable cause, the defendant is bound over for trial. The judge can also dismiss the charges if the prosecution’s case is weak.

8 The Grand Jury Some states use the grand jury process instead of preliminary hearings. The grand jury will then issue a criminal indictment instead of a judge. The defendant is arraigned after an indictment or information has been issued. The defendant enters a plea at the arraignment and the defendant is bound over to the appropriate criminal court for trial.

9 Pleas a Defendant May Enter to a Criminal Charge l
The following pleas are available to defendants: Not guilty Guilty—This may be a regular guilty plea or an Alford guilty plea in states permitting the Alford plea. An insanity plea (or defense)—Usually this plea is not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. No contest (nolo contendere)—If the statutes of the state allow the plea and the court approves. Standing mute or refusing to enter a plea—This has the same effect as a “not guilty” plea.

10 The Not-Guilty Plea During the entire criminal justice process, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty through the use of evidence and witnesses presented during a trial. The burden of proof always remains with the state or government. The level of proof required in all criminal cases is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The accuser must bear the entire burden of proving the charge by the use of competent evidence.

11 The Not-Guilty Plea The defendant can remain silent, appear as a witness on his or her own behalf, or actively attack or seek to hinder and minimize the state’s evidence and case. The defendant can deny performing the acts charged or assert an affirmative defense. To assert an affirmative defense, the defendant must come forward with evidence showing a basis for it.

12 The Guilty Plea Since the defendant stands before the court as a witness against himself in entering a guilty plea, the admission of guilt cannot be compelled but must be a voluntary expression of his own choice. A defendant’s consent to judgment without trial constitutes a waiver of the constitutional rights attending a trial; thus, his consent must be made with knowledge of the waiver of those rights. It must be shown a defendant entered a guilty plea voluntarily and intelligently. There is no constitutional right to plead guilty.

13 The Court defined the nature and consequences of a guilty plea in criminal prosecutions.
The guilty plea is more than a confession; it is a conviction. When defendants take a plea, they waive the following rights: The 5th Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination; Right to a trial by jury; and A right to confront one’s accusers. Boykin v. Alabama 395 U.S. 238 (1969)

14 U. S. v. Mendez-Santana 2011 WL 1901545 (6th Cir. 2011)
Under federal rules a defendant has an absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea before the trial judge accepts the plea. U. S. v. Mendez-Santana WL (6th Cir. 2011)

15 Alford Plea The Alford guilty plea permits a defendant to enter a guilty plea while at the same time protesting his innocence. The sentence given would be the same as that given for a regular guilty plea under the state sentencing guidelines.

16 North Carolina v. Alford 400 U.S. 25 (1970)
The Court held that a defendant can voluntarily and knowingly consent to the imposition of a prison sentence even if he is unwilling or unable to admit his participation in the acts constituting the crime. The Alford plea permits a defendant to enter a guilty plea while at the same time protest his innocence. The Alford plea is not mandatory for states but many have adopted the concept. It is considered the functional equivalent of a regular plea of guilty. North Carolina v. Alford 400 U.S. 25 (1970)

17 The No Contest Plea Most states also have statutes permitting a no contest plea, sometimes referred to as nolo contendere plea. The plea may be made only with the consent of the trial judge. Some states limit the plea to misdemeanor and local ordinance violations.

18 Conditional Guilty Plea
The defendant also does not have the constitutional right to have his/her guilty plea accepted by the court. Under the laws of all states, the court has judicial discretion to refuse to accept a plea of guilty. Defendants who enter a guilty plea in any form to a criminal charge must waive most of their rights to appeal! The defendant can enter a guilty plea conditioned upon the defendant’s right to appeal the trial judge’s ruling.

19 The Insanity Plea The insanity plea is found in the criminal codes of most states. The insanity plea is used by defendants primarily in murder cases, for which sentences are severe. If an insanity plea were entered in a minor criminal matter, the state may agree and join the defendant in requesting the court to find the defendant legally insane. The defendant would very likely then be held for mental observations and treatment for a much longer period than would have been the case had he been convicted of the crime charged.

20 The Insanity Defense If a defendant decides to use an insanity defense, most defendants will enter a not guilty plea and proceed to trial. The trial will be bifurcated, with the first part of the trial determining guilt or innocence of the charge and the second part determining whether the defendant was legally insane when the criminal act was committed. Most states place the burden on a defendant using the insanity plea to come forward with evidence showing that he/she was so mentally diseased or defective that he/she was unable to formulate the mental intent to commit the crime charged.

21 Plea Bargaining or Sentence Bargaining
Plea bargaining is when a defendant agrees to plead guilty in return for the dropping of one or more of the charges. Agreements made on the sentence a defendant will receive are known as sentence bargains. All sentence or plea bargains are subject to the approval of the trial judge.

22 Plea Bargaining or Sentence Bargaining
The main dangers in the present system of nontrial dispositions lie in the fact that it is so informal and invisible that it gives rise to fears that it does not operate fairly, or that it does not accurately identify those who should be prosecuted and what disposition should be made in their cases. The very informality and flexibility of the procedures are sources of potential usefulness and of abuse.

23 Limitations in the Use of Pleas
By admitting guilt in open court, the defendant acknowledges the wrongful conduct, which is theoretically the first step in rehabilitation. To encourage guilty pleas, there are such rules as 410 of the federal rules of evidence & rule 11 (6) of the federal rules of criminal procedure. These rules forbid the government from using as evidence: A guilty plea which is subsequently withdrawn A nolo contendere plea An offer to plea guilty to a crime charged Statements made in connection with any of the foregoing pleas or offers

24 Bail The purpose of bail is to assure the defendant appears at trial.
During a bail application, evidence of prior convictions and failures to appear in court are admissible. Historically, 60% of those persons charged with felony crimes are released on some form of bail. Half of those are on signature bonds; half on bail bonds. Bench warrants are issued in approximately one- fourth of the cases of persons released on bail who fail to appear in court for trial.

25 United States v. Salerno 481 U.S. 739 (1987)
The Court held that pre-trial detention is permissible in some circumstances under the Federal Bail Reform Act, and does not violate the Eighth Amendment. United States v. Salerno 481 U.S. 739 (1987)

26 The Trial Only about 8% of criminal cases in the United States actually go to trial. About 20% of those are tried before a judge, and 80% are tried before a jury. Prior to the trial, the discovery process takes place; both the prosecution and the defense gather evidence, interview witnesses and examination documents and records. Various motions can be filed by the parties as a result of the discovery process.

27 The Trial Jurors are selected from the community in which the court sits (the venue) from lists maintained by the court. Jurors are summoned and selected, and subpoenas are issued to compel witnesses to attend and testify at the trial. Depending on the seriousness of the crime charged and state rules, the jury may consist of 6 to 12 people. The prosecution presents evidence first and must establish a prima facie case.

28 The Trial If the judge concludes the evidence is insufficient to support a reasonable jury verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the case is dismissed. If the case is not dismissed, the defendant presents evidence to either cast doubt on the prosecution’s case or to prove an affirmative defense including: insanity, immunity, entrapment, or double jeopardy. The prosecution may then offer rebuttal evidence to counter evidence presented by the defendant during their case in chief.

29 Use of Evidence in the Stages of the Criminal Process

30 The Trial After the closing arguments have been delivered to the jury, the trial judge issues jury instructions. Jury deliberations begin outside the presence of the judge and attorneys. With a not guilty verdict, the case is over and the defendant is discharged from custody. With a guilty verdict, the defendant may file post-trial motions in the trial court such as judgment notwithstanding the verdict (sometimes called J.N.O.V.) or a motion for a new trial.

31 Directed Verdict In some cases, where the prosecution has failed to present a prima facie case for jury consideration, the judge may order the entry of a verdict without allowing the jury to consider it. In effect, the judge makes the decision on the verdict. It can be initiated by the judge or by a motion by a defense attorney. If this occurs, it will be an acquittal or a “not guilty” verdict.

32 The Appellate Process If the defendant’s motions are overruled, the defendant may appeal the criminal conviction and/or the sentence imposed. In state cases, the defendant’s initial appeals go through the state appellate process, which includes an intermediate court called a Court of Appeals and a final court called a State Supreme Court. The state appellate court looks at the evidence to see if it supports the conviction, determines if the judge made any reversible errors or constitutional violations during the trial.

33 The Appellate Process After exhausting his/her state court appeals, the defendant may seek review in the federal courts, but only for violation of federal constitutional rights. A writ of certiorari may be filed by the defendant in the U.S. Supreme Court or a writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Courts. Writs of certiorari are limited to a review of state court rulings that violate the defendant’s rights under the Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court only accepts 80 to 100 cases a year for review.

34 States the meaning of the “plain error” rule in federal appeals of criminal convictions.
Error was clear and obvious, and There is a “reasonable probability” the error affected the outcome of the trial. U.S. v. Marcus 130 S.Ct (2010)

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