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Criminal Courts Q&A

Week 4 Learning Team Questions Jereme Palmer, Martin Gallegos, Adam Moore, Jeff Shaw, Jovino Hernandez CJA/204 May 26, 2011 Mark Reinhardt

Criminal Courts Q&A

The United States justice system is very complicated with many factors. In this paper we will be discussing many aspects of the criminal courts. We will be answering questions from six different subtopics including courtroom work groups, the pretrial criminal process, the role of the prosecutor, the appeals and sentencing process, and punishment. Question 1 In a court room there are several people: the judge, prosecution, defense, jurors, bailiff, the clerk of court, and the court reporter. Being stuck in a room day after day with felons can take a toll on an individual. Everyone in the court group tries to get along; sometimes they act as if they are best friends. Even though the members of the court group are working against each other, at the end of the day justice is being served in the courtroom regardless of gender, age, race, or national origin. As a judge and part of the court room group, he or she must be neutral. The judge is like a referee. The attorneys are supposed to be adversarial, but are not to be so cooperative. The prosecuting attorneys are there to be partial, yet it does not happen all the time. There are several different attorneys: city attorneys, district attorneys, state attorneys, and United States Attorneys. Every attorney, regardless of the different levels has a very important job to do. What they have in common is that the majority of them are elected by the voters or appointed by the President. Many people believe that the courtroom needs more added security. Throughout history several cases have been documented about one of the felons grabbing the police officers/sheriffs pistol and shooting members in the courtroom. Maybe the police officers/sheriff could use a different type of weapon such as a shotgun that shoots bean bags or rubber bullets. Many times the courtroom will get out of hand with people yelling at each other. The yelling needs to be controlled. Most of the time the courtroom is open to the public. If young adults who are on the border of getting into trouble could be mandated to go see a trial, this

Criminal Courts Q&A

might make them think twice before getting into trouble. Having a judge who specializes in what the court case is about would help. Most of the time the judge is not a duty expert on that type of case. For example, if the case involves a family divorce it would be great to have a judge who is family law specialist. Question 2 The pretrial criminal process is where the prosecution and defense meet and discuss the details of the case. It is also where they determine if a plea deal is the best option. For the two sides to have the most accurate assessment of the case, the booking process that took place needs to be as thorough as possible. If details or evidence about the alleged crime were not recorded properly it can have a huge impact on whether a plea deal is reached, or if the case even has enough evidence to go to trial at all. 90% of court cases are resolved by using a plea deal (Schmalleger, Frank 2009 p.358). Some people believe that is too high of a percentage. They believe these 90% of cases arent getting their full due process. That is a good point, but I believe such a high rate of plea deals has many more positives than negatives. One reason is that it helps the crowded process move much faster giving courts more time to concentrate on the 10% of the cases that do go to trial. Another reason is that it gives law enforcement more leverage when interrogating suspects when a crime has been committed by multiple people. The system gives lesser involved individuals a lesser sentence while at the same time strengthening the case against the more serious offender by using the lesser offenders testimony. The final reason why this part of the pretrial process is a good thing is because the defendant never has to take a plea deal. He or she always has the right to go to trial if they feel it is in their best interest.

Question 3

Criminal Courts Q&A

What is the Role of the prosecutor? The role of the prosecutor is to represent the government and prove the defendant is guilty of the crime charged (Read, 2009, 2). Here are some key parts that the prosecutor takes part in-1) Jury selection, 2) opening statements, 3) direct examination 4) cross-examination, 4) and closing argument. The prosecutor also makes sure that the jurors can be fair (Read, 2009, 3). How does a prosecutor determine which case to pursue? They determine which cases to take by determining if the case has merit and sufficient evidence to pursue a conviction (judiciary.state.nj.us, 2011, 11). What would happen if the criteria for taking a case were more/less stringent? If the criteria for the taking a case was more stringent, I believe it would make the police officers jobs a lot harder by having to go more in depth then what they have already have to go and this is due to the prosecutor having to prove even more evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in court. If the criteria for the taking of a case were less stringent, I believe that the officers and the prosecutors jobs would be two easy prove someones guilty and wouldnt give the defendant a fair trial. Question 4 Once a defendant is convicted, he or she has the right to an appeal. This is covered under the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments of due process. This is when a higher court reviews the actions of a lower court. The appeals court does not conduct a new trial, yet it examines the written transcript to ensure that the proceedings were carried out fairly and in accordance with proper procedure and state law (Schmalleger, F. 2007). If appeals were eliminated, many innocent people would be in jail, prison, or put to death. In some cases, all the facts, witnesses, and evidence are not present during trial. Sometime these important factors for someones innocence dont surface until after the trial. If the defendant

Criminal Courts Q&A

cant get another chance to prove his or her innocence, then a potentionally innocent person could go to prison or be put on death-row. Question 5 Sentencing is the imposing of a penalty on a person convicted of a crime. Sentencing follows an impartial judicial proceeding during which criminal responsibility is ascertained (Schmallenger, 2009, Ch.11). Sentencing is a method design by man to hold a person accountable for their actions and also helps as deterrence for future incidents of the same kind. I understand that there are two types of ways which sentencing can occur. The first one is with the vigilant justice, with this method there is no guarantee of any of the individuals rights and it is also in a way known as revenge. This action could be described when someone takes their matter into their own hands and impose a solution or punishments that will make the executor feel better of the outcome. For example, if someone owes money to a mob boss or a drug lord and does not pay, then that person could end up dead. This is street justice and the sentence of the person was given by someone who did not care about the individuals rights and only cared about their own vengeance. Sentencing in the criminal justice system is more formal and it has been modified though out time for a better performance of the system. Sentencing can be implemented in different types and length in time. This procedure is given by a judge most of the time, yet in some specific cases a jury can contribute in some phase. The philosophy role of criminal sentencing is reflected in the goals of sentencing. Now we have different types of traditional sentencing, for example: fines, imprisonment, probation, social work, and for some serious cases, death penalty. Modern sentencing practices are based on five goals: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, rehabilitation and restoration. Retribution is a call for punishment based on perceived need for vengeance (Schmallenger, 2009, Ch.11). This

Criminal Courts Q&A

goal is basically to punish someone for doing something it was not correct or within the law. This could be seen as eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. If the person does something bad then something bad needs to happen to him. Incapacitation is simply the way to protect the society from a person that committed a crime from doing the same thing again. It segregates the person from continuing harming other people. This is like a prevention strategy plan. Deterrence is to stop future crimes are committed due to a specific punishment or sentences impose. By this the criminal will fear to repeat the same crime due to the punishment imposed and will also be set as an example for potential similar criminal acts. Rehabilitation is the process to help improve and stop the pattern of someone to commit a crime and change the bad into good. Restoration is addressed to the victim and their family due that when they are involved they could end up needing a lot of help to re-enter into society. The main point with this is to integrate the victim or their family into society and not let them feel segregated by what they suffered. The changes that I would make to the sentencing process at this time would be to have more deterrence and to be having more severe punishments including the death sentence to keep down the criminal populations at prisons. At this time, I think that the three strike rule for felony acts is not working. A person can commit one serious felony crime and two minor ones and could end up doing life in prison. We can actually change that into repeated criminal acts of the same kind. The sentencing process is evolving through time and is going to continue doing so.

Question 6 Punishment is a consequence for a wrongful act which you commit. Punishment should deter you, and also hopefully teach you something so that you may learn and grow from your

Criminal Courts Q&A

mistake. Punishment takes on many forms. It could be something as small as making somebody convicted of vandalism participate in community service programs, to something as serious as giving the death penalty to a murderer. The punishment fitting the crime is very important, because imposing severe penalties for small crimes would overflow courts and prisons. It would also give small time criminals more incentive to react violently when confronted by a witness or law enforcement. If somebody knows they will get life in prison for shoplifting, they are more likely to commit armed robbery instead. On the other hand it is very important for severe crimes to have severe penalties. If somebody knows they will get the death penalty for killing the person they are robbing, they will think twice before committing murder. One problem we have in our society is the recommitting of the same crime by offenders who are recently let out of prison. One way California is attempting to lower the recidivism rate is the three strike rule. That is a good rule because when somebody shows a pattern of disregard for the freedoms and liberties of other people the only logical thing to do is take the freedoms and liberties away from the offender. When somebody commits three strikes they are career criminals. Rehabilitation is a privilege they no longer deserve. If somebody has repeatedly shown they are useless, and have nothing to offer society except pain and suffering, they no longer should be allowed to be a part of that society. Crimes like child molestation and rape deserve 25 to life on the first strike. More prisons will have to be made, but our tax dollars go to so many things we dont care about that using tax dollars to help keep our children safe shouldnt be a big issue. Conclusion

Criminal Courts Q&A

In conclusion, we discussed courtroom work groups, the pretrial criminal process, the role of the prosecutor, the appeal process, the sentencing process, the punishment process, and many other facets of the criminal court system and how they are applied in todays society.

Criminal Courts Q&A References http://www.america.gov/st/usg-english/2009/July/20090706174555ebyessedo0.8992731.html http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/criminal/crproc.htm Schmalleger, Frank (2009). Criminal Justice Today (10th Ed.). : Prentice Hall.