Elements of the Legal System
Two teenagers, Tim Barns and Jack Carter, were charged with murder. It was alleged that they kidnapped two 10-year-old boys. They beat and tortured the boys, before killing them. The victims were found in a wooded area, just outside of town.
During the initial investigation, police felt there was evidence of “cult” activity, as the scene where the boys’ bodies were discovered indicated that this may have been some type of “sacrifice.” This directed their attention to the two local teenagers, due to their clothing, tattoos, and general appearance; they also listened to heavy metal music. They stood out from the rest of the small community, which was much more conservative.
The police pressed the younger of the two teenagers, Jack, into a confession. They did not obtain written permission from the Jack’s father to interview him, which is required. Afterwards, a local criminal defense attorney took up the case, pro bono.
At trial the prosecution presented this confession, along with some physical evidence (clothing/fibers from the boys’ homes/things) that were arguably similar to fibers found at the scene. No other specific DNA evidence tied the defendants to the scene of the crime.
There were also two witnesses who said that they overheard the two teenagers discussing the fact that they committed the murder and would commit additional murders. However, under cross examination, their testimony was not consistent with other facts. No witnesses could place them in the area of the incident on the day in question.
Despite the efforts of the defense attorneys, the judge ruled in favor of the prosecution on several key evidentiary matters. The jury convicted the two of murder. Tim, being 18 years old at the time of the crime, was sentenced to death; 16-year-old Jack, whose confession was used to convict them, received a life sentence.
Part 1 – Initial investigation and trial
What’s the function of the criminal courts in society?
What are the roles of the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney in a criminal case? What do they do? What is their obligation? Tie this discussion into the specifics of the hypothetical case.
Are we seeing the adversarial model or the consensual model at work in this case? Is this protecting due process rights or focusing more on crime control?
Part 2 – Jury Decision
What is the function of the criminal court jury?
Discuss three reasons for the importance of juries in American society.
Analyze the role that a jury plays in society, and discuss whether you believe that juries are generally successful in performing their intended function. Was the jury successful here?
Part 3 – Appeal
After 6 years in jail and maintaining their innocence, the two defendants successfully appealed their convictions, based on new evidence. Before a new trial, they enter an Alford plea. This plea means that they admit that the prosecutor may have sufficient evidence to support the elements of the crime, but they do not admit that they committed the crime. The prosecution and the judge accepted the plea, and sentenced the men to 3 years in prison, but with 6 years of time served, they were released.
Did the prosecution and defense do their job well at trial? Does this work lead to negative impressions of the legal professional? How might this case highlight some of the reason discussed in your text about why people have negative impressions of attorneys? Note at least 3 different reasons for negative impressions of attorneys. How might the public view the work of either of the sides in a positive light? Explain.
Compare and contrast the reasons that a defendant may have for favoring a plea bargain versus that of the prosecutor. Should we permit Alford pleas? Why or why not? For some assistance on this final aspect of the project, please review the following article: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/plea/four/nolo.html#65. Do you favor the proceduralist approach or the substantive values approach, suggested by the author? Explain your response.
This project should be 6 pages in length (roughly 1500 words, excluding cover page and references). You will use the chapter reading and at least four outside authoritative sources (including the article provided) to help support your analysis.
In addition to fulfilling the specifics of the Assignment, a successful paper must also meet the following criteria:
Length of the paper should be 6 pages (1400–1500 words), excluding cover page and references.
Viewpoint and purpose should be clearly established and sustained.
Assignment should follow the conventions of Standard American English (correct grammar, punctuation, etc.).
Writing should be well ordered, logical, and unified, as well as original and insightful.
Your work should display superior content, organization, style, and mechanics.
Appropriate citation style should be followed
|Subject||Law and governance||Pages||7||Style||APA|
The paper tends to analyze the legalities and the illegalities involved in the case concerning two teenagers convicted of murder. In their trial, the jury and the prosecution made a lot of decisions which are subject to legal debate. Though it is the task of the jury to deliver justice, in some cases the wrong individuals who might be innocent are punished. In the case involving Jim Barns, who at the time of trial was aged 18 years and Jack Carter who was aged 17 years, the jury relied on some information and evidence which might be deemed as inefficient and inadmissible in court prosecutions due to various reasons as discussed in the essay.
On its own, the society cannot survive. We have the law and peace-loving citizens while others who engage in criminal activities. Almost all the criminal activities which take place in the society lead to chaos more so in cases involving murder and theft. Hence at times, the society takes up the task of enforcing law and order which in most circumstances one of the parties may feel having been discriminated. With the above well known to the authorities and the state, the need for a body or institution to handle criminal cases is necessary. This institution is mandated with delivering justice which is non-discriminatory. In an effort to deliver justice where all the parties are treated equally, the need for criminal courts arises. Hence, the main aim of criminal courts is to ensure that law and order is maintained in the society and those who go against are punished accordingly. Courts fall under the judicial system.
Roles of Attorneys in Cases
In any case, which meets the legal standards; there is always the presence of two kinds of attorneys. The first category includes the prosecution attorney, in most instances, this attorney is referred to as the prosecutor. The main role of the prosecuting attorney is to present a case to the jury or the bench. In most countries, the prosecution attorney is often an employee of the government. Thus, the prosecution attorney works for the government with an aim of presenting a solid case to the bench which will lead to delivery of a ruling in which the accused is convicted. In instances where the accused is not convicted as guilty as charged or otherwise, the prosecution attorney is deemed to have failed. The prosecution attorney is responsible for collecting enough evidence which leads to a conviction of the accused. In the case involving Jack and Barns, the prosecution attorney gathered evidence from Jack in the form of written submissions that they committed the murder. Secondly, the prosecutor cross-examined those who were witnesses in the case with the aim of collecting evidence from them. Generally, in the case against Jack and Barns, the prosecution succeeded since the jury found both of them guilty and sentenced them.
The defense attorney is often hired by the accused person to represent them in court. In rare cases, the state provides defense attorneys. This attorney has the sole obligation of countering whatever the prosecutor advances towards the accused. In almost all cases, the defense attorney works to contradict whatever the prosecutor advances to the bench and the witnesses in order to secure freedom for the accused. In the case involving the two brothers, the defense attorney made claims that the brothers were not involved in the crime hence should be freed. The system displayed in the above case is adversarial since we have the attorney in charge of prosecution and another one who is defending the accused. This system ensures that the rights of all parties are observed (Robert, 2003).
A jury is a body or group which is composed of legal experts. The legal experts are expected to deliver a well-informed ruling depending on the case brought forward by the entire court. The entire court involves the evidence collected during trial considering the needs of the society and the constitution of the country. Hence, the jury is expected to pass a verdict where they might find the accused guilty or innocent. In the modern day, the jury might go a step further and determine whether evidence brought to them is enough to go to a full trial or not. Also, the jury might pass a decision where they recommend for full trial after the evidence is adjusted to meet certain requirements as per legal standards.
Importance of Juries in the USA
This is the underlying reason why the courts and judicial system was formed in America. It is tasked with delivering justice to the parties involved. Justice might be delivered in a number of ways which involves jailing of the accused, setting free the accused, issuing a decree for compensation and so on. When justice is delivered in the American society, it is assumed that law and order has been followed in the country. When this happens peace prevails amongst the American societies.
Implementing the Constitution of America
Although most of the formulation of the constitution is done by the legislature, it has no authority to ensure that the constitution is followed. Once the legislature formulates the amendments of the constitution and the executive arm is in favor of them, then they are passed over to the judiciary. The judiciary on its part is tasked with ensuring that the constitution is followed by all citizens in the country including the most senior citizens who is the president. The judiciary does this through the criminal courts which are spread all over the country. These criminal courts have different ranks, where the decision of a lower court can be overturned by a court which is higher. For those who do not follow the constitution, the criminal courts have the authority to punish them.
Bridging the Gap between the Government and the Society
Legally we have what the government would like to happen in matters of criminal proceedings. On the other hand, we have what the public and other entities would like to happen. Hence in America, at times the government might want someone prosecuted while the public might want the person to be set free. Other times the vice versa is true. What the criminal courts do is balancing between what the government wants and the public basing their decision on the arguments and evidence brought before them.
The Juries Role in the Society
In the society, the jury is tasked with delivering a ruling which does not discriminate against either of the parties and the ruling is partial and just. What should be understood is that the juries are normal humans; their only exception is the mere fact that they are more experienced and knowledgeable in legal matters compared to ordinary citizens. At times the jury relies on common sense just like a normal person (Sandra, 2004). Overall, the juries are successful since without them, chaos would be everywhere just like in the jungle. In the case involving Jack and Barns, I am of the view that justice was not delivered since evidence presented before the court was not enough. Furthermore, the jury relied mainly on evidence collected under coercion from a minor.
After the Alford plea, the boys were sentenced to reduced sentences of 3 years. From the impression created since the case began, it was evident that the jury relied on evidence which was not sufficient enough to convict the boys. After the appeal, the biggest gainers who did the job effectively are the defendant attorneys. They achieved their main goal which was proving the boys were innocent. However, this was not fully achieved but the reduced sentences compared to the initial ones were an achievement. The prosecution also succeeded in one way or another and failed too. Their success is the fact that the boys were still jailed, but their failure is that there was not enough evidence to permanently convict the boys of murder. This instance doesn’t lead to a negative view towards the legal experts. Both experts are performing their duties where the prosecutor aims at presenting a strong case which might lead to the accused being punished whether they committed the crime or not. On the other hand, the defense attorney wants the accused freed or leniently sentenced. Thus, the legal profession involves making a strong presentation before the jury.
Negative Views towards Attorneys
Attorneys might be viewed negatively since most of them are in the profession with the purpose of making money. Only a few are in the legal profession and always talk the truth before the jury regardless of the needs of their clients. Secondly, attorneys are viewed as hypocrites since they might be aware that someone is guilty but are working to prove their innocence while at other times the prosecution is aiming at fixing an innocent person. Finally, attorneys might be negatively rated in the society since the legal system provides for them to advance their lies freely (Fortune, 1998). On the positive side, attorneys succeed to convict an accused person who actually committed the crime and justice prevails. Secondly, justice might prevail when an attorney succeeds in setting free an accused person who is innocent.
Plea Bargain versus Prosecution Bargain
Technically, and what happens in most criminal cases, the defendants are always in favor of the plea bargain. They prefer the plea bargain since they are often promised lesser or lenient judgments in the case that they plead guilty before the commencement of trial or before completion of the trial. This saves the entire court and the jury the extra time that would have been used if a full trial was concluded and a verdict delivered. Those who are not in favor of a plea bargain but prefer the prosecution one are in fear that whatever they confess might be used against them. This might lead to being convicted guilty of what they never did or being given longer sentences. Those who favor a prosecution bargain are likened to gamblers since the outcome might be in their favor or the favor of the prosecution. Alford plea should be permitted since they offer a chance for individuals who have been convicted guilty but are innocent to redeem themselves (Bibas, 2002). Also, it offers a chance for the jury to review their judgment and alter it accordingly (Ronald, 2008).
The substantive values approach is preferable since the society is largely involved. For instance, the society is involved in the reintegration and rehabilitation of an already convicted individual upon release. Further, even the proceduralist approach at the end it is swallowed by the substantive values approach which is stronger and more viable (Stephanos, 2003).
Bibas, S. (2002). Harmonizing Substantive-Criminal-Law Values and Criminal Procedure: The Case of Alford and Nolo Contendere Pleas. Cornell L. Rev., 88, 1361.
Fortune, W. (1998). Psychology and the Legal System. California: Brooks Press.
Robert, A. (2003). Adversarial Way of Law. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674012417.
Ronald, M. (2008). Wrongful Convictions. Temple University Press. Pp 143. ISBN 1-59213-645-1.