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Trials. Significance of Trials (and Appeals) n They provide many people with a conclusion to a dispute. Win or lose, this is the end. n They are important.

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Presentation on theme: "Trials. Significance of Trials (and Appeals) n They provide many people with a conclusion to a dispute. Win or lose, this is the end. n They are important."— Presentation transcript:

1 Trials

2 Significance of Trials (and Appeals) n They provide many people with a conclusion to a dispute. Win or lose, this is the end. n They are important symbols of law and justice in the U.S. n They provide a setting for judicial policymaking - decisions influence others besides the litigants in a particular case (precedent).

3 Trials Fact-gathering forums governed by rules of procedure. Defendants are formally presumed innocent until proved guilty.

4 Jury Trials n Right to Jury - 6th and 7th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution guarantee a right to jury trial in criminal and civil cases -- if, the imprisonment might exceed 6 months in a criminal case, or if either side in a civil case involving money requests one. n Juries of citizens have been used since 1215 (Magna Carta). n Juries fuse the legal culture and popular political culture.

5 Bench Trials n A bench trial takes place before a judge. There is no jury. n Examples: criminal misdemeanors where fines and probation or short jail terms are typical, some civil cases such as those involving small financial claims, divorce, landlord-tenant, etc. n Some defendants in serious criminal cases give up their right to jury trial in hopes of greater leniency from the judge.

6 Bench Trials n In a few cities, bench trials are used as slow pleas of guilty in criminal cases. Defendants do not plead guilty following negotiations between prosecution and defense, but are found guilty by a judge after a quick bench trial. n Short trials appear to benefit defendants in several ways: –Defendants do not have to be talked into pleading guilty by their lawyers. –By not pleading guilty, they reserve their right to appeal. –Defendants receive the benefits of a negotiated guilty plea (quick, routine, not a lot said about you).

7 Presiding Judge n Judges have significant power over trials: –They decide who wins and loses. –They interpret rules of evidence and testimony and make decisions about what information may legitimately be considered in a case. –They instruct juries on how to consider evidence in reaching their verdict.

8 Selection of Juries n Jurors are supposed to be impartial, amateur judges and not let personal biases enter into their decisions. n Jury selection procedures usually guarantee that juries will not be broadly representative of the local population. n Jury selection based on voter registration lists generally produces a disproportionate number of middle- aged, educated, employed men as jurors. n Some judicial districts use property tax rolls, city utility customers, or telephone directory. n Certain occupational groups are legally excluded from jury duty in some states: doctors, nurses, teachers, and others are needed elsewhere in the community.

9 Jurors n A 1977 national survey estimated that only 6% of Americans had served as a juror. n State and national surveys in the late 1990s estimate that between 20% and 30% percent of Americans had experienced jury service. n Why the increase? Over the same period, jury pools became more representative of the adult population through reform of jury source lists and voir dire practices and the elimination of occupational exemptions. n According to a Harris Interactive poll conducted by the American Bar Association in 2003, approximately 29% of the adult American population has served as a trial juror at some point in their lifetime. Other recent surveys suggest that the percentage is as high as 50%. n According to a 2007 survey by the National Center for State Courts, 15% of the adult American population is summonsed for jury service each year, but only.8% are ultimately impaneled.

10 Lawyer’s Tactics in Jury Selection n Lawyers attempt to get a jury favorable to their side. n Cause - attorney asks the judge to dismiss a potential juror who is incapable of performing as an impartial decision-maker (for example someone morally opposed to the death penalty in a capital case) - in routine cases, few are dismissed for cause. n Peremptory Challenges - dismissing a potential juror without reason or approval of the judge. The more serious the case, the more peremptories attorneys get.

11 Scientific Jury Selection n Attorneys usually rely on personal hunches about who will be a sympathetic juror. n Since the 1970s, attorneys have employed social scientists and public relations firms to determine before the trial, which kinds of people would be most sympathetic to their cause. Surveys are conducted and profiles of local residents are constructed. n Mock juries are also used by attorneys in big cases. n Is this fair? Does it give rich clients an advantage?

12 Witnesses and Testimony n After the jury is seated, opening statements on both sides are made, though this is optional. n Witnesses are used to piece the conflict together. Prosecutors in criminal cases usually start with the arresting police officer. n Defense cross-examines the prosecution’s witnesses. Defense can then call witnesses and the prosecution can cross-examine them.

13 Witnesses and Testimony n Only verifiable facts supported by personal knowledge of witnesses are permitted as evidence in a case. n Witnesses may not report what they have heard from others or what they believe is true. This is hearsay. n Some facts are irrelevant even if true - for example a defendants prior record is irrelevant concerning guilt (though it may be important in sentencing).

14 Closing Statements & Jury Instructions n While attorneys are generally free to structure their closing remarks any way they like, they may not make statements that are clearly biased against a criminal defendant. If political, racial, or ethnic slurs are used, a conviction could be overturned on appeal. n After closing statements, the judge will instruct the jury on the kind of evidence needed to convict a defendant of certain crimes. Incorrect instructions provide an opportunity to appeal.

15 Issues in the Trial Courts n Jury Size - Most people are familiar with the twelve-person jury and the need for a unanimous decision. However, many states have used six-person juries for years and some states have enacted laws permitting juries to decide cases by certain size majorities. Why? To save time and money. But, is fairness compromised?

16 Issues in the Trial Courts n Televised Trials - many argue that cameras prevent the free flow of testimony and encourage attorney grandstanding, while others argue that the public has a right to know

17 Conclusion n Juries provide a role for popular political culture in trial courts. n The ideal search for an objective jury is filled with practical strategies for getting a sympathetic jury. n Trials tell a story by piecing together evidence and testimony from various witnesses, but lawyers also try to create mental pictures of plaintiffs and defendants for the judge or jury, believing that more than the facts presented in court are important in determining trial decisions.

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