Criminal Cases Scenarios Research Paper Sample
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I Court Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is defined as the authority of a court to take cognizance of a case. Jurisdiction can either be horizontal or vertical. In the former, a lower court must first try a case before it can be appealed to a higher court. In the latter, a court can only hear a case involving a matter within its authority to hear. This is also known as a court of limited jurisdiction. The US has also two court systems, namely the federal court system and the state court system. Nonetheless, a case heard by state courts can be finally appealed to the US Supreme Court in certain cases. Federal courts are limited to specific cases, while state courts hear almost all kinds of cases except those with federal nature (Miller p. 30).
The jurisdictional matter applied in court systems is illustrated in the James Holmes case. James Holmes is known as the alleged perpetrator of the 2012 Colorado movie house massacre. In 2012, during the midnight premiere of the movie “The Dark Knight Rises” in the city of Aurora, Colordo, Holmes allegedly entered the packed theater through the parking lot exit near the screen, released smoke-emitting devices, and began firing at will. Twelve persons died and a score of others were injured. There was panic, screaming and blood all over. Holmes was a former graduate student of the University of Colorado in Denver and an honors graduate in neuroscience at the University of California in Riverside. He was subsequently arrested by the police in the parking lot (Frosch and Johnson 2012). Today, James Holmes is awaiting trial at the Arapahoe county district court of the Colorado 18th Judicial District charged with 142 counts of felonies that include two first-degree murder for each of the 12 victims and 2 attempted first-degree murder for each of the 58 injured individuals (Riccardi and Banda 2012).
Murder, as applied in the Holmes case is a state felony. Although federal courts have also jurisdiction over murder, but the murder under their jurisdiction are specific and aggravated by certain circumstances. These include murder related to smuggling of aliens, under 8 USC 1324, murder committed in an international airport, under 18 USC 37, and murder of relatives of law enforcement officials as a retaliatory measure, among others (ProCon 2012). None of the murder defined under US federal law applies to Holmes case and, therefore, the case falls under state law. According to Colorado laws, murder in the first degree is a Class 1 felony punishable by death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (Colorado Revised Statutes §18-3-02).
The Holmes case is, thus, under the jurisdiction of the Colorado 18th Judicial District, which has jurisdiction over the counties of Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln (Colorado Judicial Branch 2015). Aurora is a city within the boundaries of Arapahoe County (Arapahoegov 2015). As a district court of general jurisdiction, the 18th Judicial District of Arapahoe, Colorado has jurisdiction to try felony criminal cases, among others (Anderson 2015). Under Colorado laws, district courts try felonies that are adjudicated as serious, such as murder. The murder cases filed against James Holmes are, therefore, within the jurisdiction of the Arapahoe district court under the 18th Judicial District.
II Plea Bargaining and Justice
An example of a case in which the defendant agreed to a guilty plea as a plea bargaining strategy is the case of Larry Boltic. In 1989, Larry Bostic was accused of rape and robbery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A 30-year old woman reported being accosted by a black man with a knife on October 12, 1988 as she walking home after using the payphone at 4 am. The man directed the woman to an isolated area, raped her and took her money. After showing her pictures of potential suspects, the victim identified Bostic to the police as the perpetrator. She later confided to an investigator that she did not actually see the perpetrator, but she identified Bostic because she saw him in the area days before the incident happened. Rather than face a life possible sentence in a jury trial, Bostic was forced to accept plea bargaining that would have him plead guilty to the charge in exchange for 8 years in prison and 5 years of probation thereafter. He was, thus, convicted of the charges, served time in prison and, was released after three years on probation. However, he was rearrested after nine months for charges unrelated to the original one, but this constituted a violation of his rape probation. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison, and another concurrent 12 years after pleading guilty to the battery charge (Possley 2014).
The guilty plea of Bostic as part of the plea bargaining strategy was not just because it was forced on the defendant who was afraid that he would get life if he did not enter the guilty plea. Bostic knew he did not commit the rape and had the case gone to trial, the victim could have been called to the stand because the case solely depended on her testimony. Since she did not actually see the face of the perpetrator she would have buckled under intense questioning and the case would have crumbled. Fortunately for Bostic, his innocence was finally revealed with the help of technology. In 2005, Bostic personally wrote a motion to the court requesting for DNA testing of evidence that was collected in 1989. Two years later, the motion was granted and testing was conducted. The results revealed that the DNA profile of the sperm cells found on the vaginal swab of the victim did not match those of Bostic. He was released in 2007 with the decision vacated and all charges against him dropped.
III Wrongful Conviction
With the advances made in forensic technologies, particularly DNA testing, in recent decades, many convictions had been found to have been wrongly made because DNA results revealed no links to the convicted persons. One such case is that of Kirk Bloodsworth who spent almost a decade in prison until it was discovered that he did not commit the crime he was convicted of. In 1985, Bloodsworth was convicted in Baltimore County, Maryland of rape and murder of Dawn Hamilton, a 9-year old girl. The conviction meted him a death sentence. Bloodsworth was an ex-marine who was a discuss champion. Five witnesses testified against him with some locating him with the victim and others in the vicinity of the victim at about the time the crime occurred. The prosecution also presented forensic evidence that matched his shoes to the tracks found on the victim’s body. A year later, the conviction was overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals after evidence showing that the prosecution concealed evidence from the defense that would have helped the latter’s case. Bllodsworth was retried, however, and was again convicted – a conviction that was affirmed on appeal. He was sentenced to a two life terms in 1985 (Warden 2012) .
In 1992, the testimony and forensic evidence presented against Bloodsworth was found to be false. A DNA technology called PCR for polymerase chain reaction was developed and Bloodsworth’s defense team exploited it. A motion to subject preserved materials from the crime scene succeeded. The result showed that Bloodsworth was not the perpetrator of the crime. He was released a year later to become the first death row inmate cleared of the crime through DNA testing. The Maryland governor granted him a full pardon on the basis of innocence in 1994. It was only a decade later that the real culprit was discovered through a DNA testing of the stained bed sheet that was recovered from the scene. The new evidence pointed to Kimberly Shay Ruffner – an inmate who had once shared Bloodsworth’s cell and who arrived in the prison house a month after Bloodsworth did. The state of Maryland paid Bloodsworth $300,000 for lost income due to the wrongful conviction. In 2004, the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-conviction DNA Testing Grant Program was established by the Justice for All Act to provide funding to states in DNA testing after conviction (Warden 2012).
Anderson, J. (n.d). Colorado Court System. http://www.cobar.org/docs/Colorado%20Court%20System.pdf
Arapahoe.gov (2012). Cities and Towns. http://www.arapahoegov.com/index.aspx?NID=105
Colorado Revised Statutes.
Frosch, D. and Johnson, K. (2012). Gunman Kills 12 in Colorado, Reviving Gun Debate. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/21/us/shooting-at-colorado-theater- showing-batman-movie.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Miller, M. (2014). Judicial Politics in the United States. Westview Press.
Possley, M. (2014). Larry Bostic. The National Registry of Exonerations. University of Michigan Law School. http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=3036
ProCon (2012). 41 Federal Capital Offenses. http://deathpenalty.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004927
Ricardi, N. and Banda, S. (2012). Colo. suspect charges: Murder, attempted murder. Yahoo News. http://news.yahoo.com/colo-suspect-charges-murder-attempted-murder-180843200.html
Warden, R. (2012). Kirk Bloodsworth. The National Registry of Exonerations. http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=3032
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