Good Example Of Jury Trial Analysis Essay
The federal and all state constitutions state that any individual accused of a crime has the right to a fair trial. The general right to a fair trial includes a number of smaller, specific rights including the presumption of innocence, a speedy and open trial, an impartial judge and jury, an attorney, the opportunity to confront a hostile witness, and a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Accordingly, one of the primary and most important ways to ensure the accused can exercise his rights to a fair trial is the appointment of an attorney to represent him. Indeed, the fundamental purpose of an attorney is to protect and establish the accused’s rights and to defend them in all stages of a criminal proceeding especially at trial (Pejic & Lesnie). Moreover, an attorney is responsible for informing the accused of his rights as well as explaining any necessary details of trial procedure that the accused may not know. This is especially important if the accused decides to represent himself at trial. It is important to note that the constitutional standard for an attorney appointed or chosen to represent the accused is that the attorney provides effective assistance. This means that the attorney must have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to provide competent representation. The appointment of a competent attorney also provides the accused an opportunity to vigorously challenge the state’s claim against them by demanding the presumption of their innocence, the questioning of their witnesses and pointing out weaknesses or inconsistencies in their case. Moreover, a competent defense attorney will require that if there is evidence implicating the accused, the trier of fact must be sure that it proves the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
After the provision on an attorney, the second most important right to a fair trial is the provision of an impartial judge. To be sure, an impartial judge is vital to avoid the arbitrariness and bias that might arise if the case was made before a political body such as the legislature or a government agency (Pejic & Lesnie). An impartial judge is also necessary if the rights of the accused, persons who are inherently disfavored by the public, are to be protected. As Alexander Hamilton said, however, “laws are dead letters without courts to expound and define their true meaning” (Federalist No. 22, Hamilton, Madison & Jay). One of the best ways to ensure the impartiality of the judge is the separation of the judiciary from the other political branches. This separation allows the courts and their judges the independence to make its decisions about any particular case on the basis of the law and precedent rather than on political expediency. The independence of the judiciary is guaranteed under Article III of the federal Constitution as well as similar provisions in every state constitution. Political influence is just one way to affect a judge’s impartiality. Another way is the influence of the public. As humans, judges necessarily are influenced by the community to which they are a part of. But impartiality requires that judge are insulated from being completely controlled by the people’s will. One way to accomplish this is through codes of ethics and professional responsibilities which require that a judge perform his duties in a neutral manner. Another way is in how judges are chosen. At the federal level judges are chosen by the president, confirmed by the Senate and serve for life. The Founding Fathers felt this is the best way to weaken the influence of the public. At the state level, there are a number of ways such as appointment, merit-based assignments and non-partisan elections which are used to limited the public’s influence on judges.
While defendant’s have the right to choose a judge as the trier of fact in their trial; most choose a jury instead. The Founding Fathers considered the jury important because it was a decision-making body independent of the state and of the same community as the accused that was called on to make a neutral finding of fact (Bianco and Canon). Accordingly, having an impartial jury guarantees that the decision of whether or not an accused is guilty is made without any outside influence whatsoever but rather is based specifically on the evidence that was presented during the trial. One of the most traditional ways to ensure an impartial jury is through a procedure known as voir dire or jury selection. Voir dire occurs prior to the beginning of trial and involves the questioning of potential jurors by the prosecutor, defense attorney and, in some cases, the judge to determine their competence and potential bias (Morris). Those individuals that are founded to be incompetent, biased or partial to either the state or the accused are blocked from sitting on the jury for the trial. Sequestration is another traditional method courts have used to protect the impartiality of the jury. Sequestration refers blocking the jury from receiving any “extrajudicial information” thereby guaranteeing that any verdict is based strictly on the evidence presented at the trial (Morris).
One of the more historically disgraceful habits of criminal proceedings has been the indefinite detention of the accused. The Founding Fathers understood the injustice of keeping an accused in detention without a resolution of their case and prohibited it through the Sixth Amendment’s right to a speedy trial (Bianco and Canon). Under federal and most state criminal procedure laws, once charges have been filed by the state, a specific date is set by which a trial must take place. An accused’s right to a speedy trial is protected by both his attorney and the court. It is the job of a competent defense attorney to know if his client has been unduly held in detention and bring any violations to the court’s notice by demanding that a date of trail is set as soon as the law allows and that if the trial date is passed without a trial, that the accused is freed. Similarly, it is the responsibility of the judge to set a trial date as soon as the law allows or to release a defendant that is still in detention if the trial date has passed without a trial.
Bianco, William, and David Canon. American Politics Today (3rd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013. Print.
Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison, and John Jay. The Federalist Papers. New York: Viking, 1987. Print.
Morris, Jaime N. “The Anonymous Accused: Protecting Defendants’ Rights in High-Profile Criminal Cases.” Boston College Law Review 44.3.3 (2003): 901-946. Web.
Pejic, Jelena and Vanessa Lesnie. “What is a fair trial?” Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. Mar. 2000. 10 Mar. 2015. Web.