In this paper I will provide an analysis of a jury trial; my analysis will focus on the right of the defendant. I will articulate how a defendant’s rights at trial can be assured when it comes to The defendant’s right to a speedy trial, the defendant’s right to an impartial judge and the defendant’s right to an impartial jury. There are six steps in the trial process; these steps include jury selection, opening statements, evidence presentation, closing arguments, charging of the jury and deliberation of jury. Throughout this six step process, it is vital that the rights of all parties involved and respected and protected by following due process. This is especially vital to the defendant in each case since he/she has the most to lose.
The Right to A Speedy Trial
The sixth amendment states that “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial.” (18 U.S.C. Sections 3161-3174). Still, it is important to note that the time limit for a speedy trial is not legally defined. In 1966 the Supreme Court address the matter of a “speedy trial”, and identified three advantages associated with the practice. First, it prevents excessive incarceration. Second, in minimizes anxiety suffered by the defendant. And lastly, in prevents damage to the case. A speedy trial also has advantages to the government. It assures guilty verdicts due to the minimized loss of evidence. It also keeps defendants from bailing out and committing more crimes. Although advantages of the practice were reviewed, it is still hard to state what a “speedy trial” is.
In the case of Barker v. Wingo (407 U.S. 514 ), the defendant is the case felt that this right had been violated after his case was continued 16 times over a five year course. As a result, the Supreme Court determined that this right to a speedy trial is violated when the length and reason of continuance is reviewed and considered unjust, the defendants assertion of his right is reviewed and considered, and prejudice is found against the defendant. All four of these criteria must be present when the right has been violated. In order to ensure this right is not violated, cases shall not be delayed unjustly, and due to prejudice against a defendant.
The Right to an Impartial Judge
The right to an impartial judge is not covered in the Sixth amendment; but the Supreme Court decided that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right of a defendant to have an impartial judge. This right is applies during a bench trial, when a judge decides the defendants fate instead of a jury. It also applies during a jury trial, where the judge simply oversees the case and the fate is decided by a jury of the defendants peers. A judge is found to be impartial when he or she is found to have direct, personal, substantial pecuniary interest in reaching a verdict against a defendant in a case he or she is overseeing. If a judge is found to be impartial, that judge can be fined. In most jurisdictions, either the defense or prosecution can move to have a judge removed if bias by a judge is found.
Ironically, the only person who can remove a judge, is the judge. The second method of removing a judge is to have either the prosecution on defense peremptorily remove a judge. This means that the judge is removed for no reason at all. This practice of removing a judge from a case is extremely rare. This is similar to the jury selection process and is usually allowed only once per case. In most cases, forcibly removing a judge is not necessary; judges will usually be responsible enough to remove themselves from a case is they know they are somehow connected or biased.
The Right to an Impartial Jury
The jury selection process is a vital part of the trial process. The process of jury selection ensures that the courts stay true to the Due Process, and comply with the constitutional guidelines. The process is based on Voir Dire; meaning committed to telling the truth. This process not only ensures due process, but it also provides the best means of ensuring an impartial jury. The process provides lawyers the opportunity to review possible jurors and gives them the opportunity to have a say in the selection process. Any jurors that the lawyers feel can be detrimental to the case, can be removed from the jury selection process. During jury selection, potential jurors are interviewed then chosen or eliminated from the jury. The initial selection of potential jurors is completely random; citizens get “jury Duty” notices on a random basis. The screening of the jury selection is conducted by both the prosecution and the defense, and is overviewed by the judge on the case. During the interview, citizens are asked a number of strategic questions to ensure that they are not in any way bias for or against the defendant or case.
The questions also eliminate those who have any connection to the case, in any way. It is during this interview that the lawyers on the case can voice their concerns regarding biased jurors. The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution ensures that the defendant has to the right to a jury of their peers. The standard for a jury is usually 12 but the judge can alter that anywhere from 6-12 jurors; there is also two alternatives in the case there is a breech. If a jury is only made up of six jurors, the final verdict must be based on a unanimous vote from all of the jurors. In conclusion, I provided an analysis of a jury trial; my analysis focused on the right of the defendant. I articulated how a defendant’s rights at trial can be assured when it comes to The defendant’s right to a speedy trial, the defendant’s right to an impartial judge and the defendant’s right to an impartial jury. Due process in in place to protect the rights of all involved in a legal matter; it is the responsibility of all involved to ensure the rights of all are respected, and protected throughout the legal process.
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University of Phoenix eBook Collection database. Zalman, M. (2008). Criminal Procedure: Consitition and Society (5th ed.). Prentice Hall, MA: author.
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