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Chapter 15

Homicide - Chapter 15 Summary.docx

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University of Guelph
SOC 2760
Rob Shearer

Chapter 15 Summary - The scenes portrayed in televised programming are relatively rare – approximately half of the defendants charged with murder accept please bargains to avoid the harshest penalty and almost half of murder defendants in large urban counties have public defenders - However murder defenders are less likely to have public defenders than defendants charged with other violent crimes - Trials tend to be longer in real life and more mundane - This chapter focuses on the stages involved in processing a defendant through the U.S court system after they have been arrested for murder or manslaughter - After the arrest the trial does not begin immediately, however there are several stages between the arrest and the trial (if there is a trial) Initial Stages - Once a suspect has been arrested, case is in the hands of prosecuting attorney or district attorney - The DA has a lot of power, they decide whether to charge the accused as well as what crimes to charge – they decide to whether to charge the accused with the most serious crime for which there may be evidence or a lesser charge - - Also decide whether to charger murder defendants with several crimes when the evidence supports such charges - In 2003, 61% of defendants charged with murder in the 75 largest urban countries were charged with at least one felony in addition to the murder - Prosecutor may decide there is not enough evidence to obtain a conviction and thus he or she may opt not to prosecute Initial Appearance - Within 48 hours accused must be brought before the judge to magistrate to be formally advised of the charges he or she faces - During this appearance an attorney may be assigned (if cannot afford own) - Judge may decide whether the defendant will have the opportunity to be released on bail - If the accused has been arrested without a warrant – a probably cause hearing also must take place within 24 hours to guarantee there was a probable cause to make an arrest - The probable cause hearing is included with the initial appearance hearing in many jurisdictions – others may include probable cause with a preliminary hearing - May live in a state that skips first appears and instead moves directly to an arraignment Pretrial Release - In state courts pretrial release on bail or on one’s own recognizance is less likely in homicide cases than in other types of crimes - Nearly 3/4s of those eventually convicted of murder were denied bail or had bail amounts of at least 100,000 - Some state legislatures have instituted laws that do not allow the pre-release of those offenders who are believed to be a danger to society Grand Jury - Grand juries are as part of the pretrial stage in federal criminal courts and in nearly half of state courts - Grand juries meet in secret and the defendant has no right to attend or present evidence - The prosecutor presents evidence to support going forward with a cased against the accursed, if majority of the grand jury believes there is enough evidence to proceed with the case the defendant is indicted and the cases is said to be a “true bill” - Very rare that a case has a jury that does not indict – popular saying “any half decent prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich” - Instead or in addition to a grand jury, if you live in Tennessee or Georgia, the prosecutor in your state may be required to file a complaint against the accused in a preliminary hearing - At prelim hearing a judge decided whether there is probable cause to continue - Unlike a grand jury, defendants are permitted to testify and call witnesses during a prelim hearing - It is also at prelim hearing that the defendant or prosecutor may questions whether the defendant is competent to stand trial Arraignment - If it determined that there is probable cause the next step is the arraignment where the defendant enters his or her plea - They may plead guilty, nolo contendere, not guilty, and in some jurisdictions, not guilty by reason of insanity o Guilty plea: defendant admits the acts they are accused of and judge schedules sentencing hearing o Nolo contendere: or no contest is a plea in some jurisdictions, the accused admits criminal liability but does not actually admit guilt – if there is a civil suit, the offender has not admitted to any crime, but he or she can still be convicted in criminal court and sentences as if he or she entered a guilty plea o Not guilty: defendant wants the prosecution to make a case against them – there will be a trial - Offender may plead not guilty even if they have confessed – the accused may be taking his or her changes that a jury will see things differently than the prosecutor and treat the accused with leniency - For some, a plea of guilty seems to fulfill the accused’s desire to be the centre of attention – for example Reinaldo Rivera o Admitted to killing at least 4 women in Georgia and South Carolina o Attorneys were attempting to show that he was a sociopath, Rivera shouted and yelled he did not want to found not guilty due to insanity, and Rivera claimed he wanted to be found guilty and sentenced to death for his crimes Plea Bargaining - Usually a deal made b/w the prosecuting attorney and the defendant although it must be approved by a judge - Defendant agrees to please guilty to a lesser crime or to fewer crimes than he or she is charged with in exchange for a more lenient sentence than the defendant might received by going to trial - Prosecutors certain offender is guilty may prefer to plea-bargain if the case against offender is weak or to avoid the expense and time of a trial and to guarantee a guilty plea - Accused persons may agree to plead guilty to avoid the risk of a harsh sentence - Plea bargaining is such a normalized part of the criminal justice system in the US – unlike Australia - It is common for those accused of murder, nonnegligent manslaughter and other violent crimes in the US – however trails are more likely in murder and nonnegligent manslaughter case than in other felony cases rd - 95% of all state felony convictions in 2002 were the result of guilty pleas only 2/3 of those convicted of homicide were convicted by a guilty plea - There were fewer murder trials than assault or drug trails in 2002 – still the number of trails for robbery, burglary, and larceny were comparable, making homicide trials a relatively common occurrence in the nations courts Pretrial Motions - After an arraignment but before trial, attorneys may file pretrial motions in which they make a request of the judge - Defense attorneys often make a motion for discovery, which asks the prosecution reveal to the defense the evidence against him or her - Either side may also make motions to have evidence suppressed The Homicidal Trial - Trails proceed in a particular way with rituals, roles, and rules - Real trials are also often slow and detailed in comparison to what we see on TV Steps of trial Jury Selection - If a murder defendant pleads not guilty, a date is set for trial - Each trial follows the same outline: first, a jury is selected - According to the sixth amendment, US citizens accused of a serious crime are guaranteed the right to a trail by an impartial jury – for an impartial jury, the jurors must be unbiased and selected from a venire, a group of potential jurors, that is representative of the community from which it is selected - Some call jury selection a “deselection process” because the goal is to exclude individuals with extreme views on either end of the spectrum in an attempt to assemble an impartial jury - Juries in murder trials usually consist of 12 jurors and at least 2 alternates - Process of jury selection is called voir dire – French for “to speak the truth” - Panel of potential jurors, venire, are summoned to court and during voir dire, the judge and often defense/prosecutor ask potential jurors questions that are meant to discover whether there are reasons for excluding particular individuals from the jury - Each side has a number of peremptory challenges that they may use to exclude potential jurors without having to give reason, each side may also make unlimited challenges for cause - Challenges for cause are used when it is believed the potential juror cannot be impartial usually because of a conflict of interest Scientific Jury Selection - In early 1970s, sociologist Jay Schulman and other social scientists began the scientific jury selection when they volunteered to help with jury selection in the Harrisburg Seven Trial - Schulman et al conducted survey and interview research to develop demographic profiles of those most likely and least likely to side with the prosecution - The Harrisburg Seven were antiwar activists accused of a variety of crimes, including conspiring to destroy selective service records and kidnap secretary of state Henry Kissinger - Scientific jury selection has become a $400 million industry with hundreds of firms and even more practitioners who charge anywhere from $2000 to over $100,000 for their services - Industry is successful if measured by its growth and costs but its use remains controversial because of questions about its effectiveness and fairness - Critics are quick to point out that the successful results in the Harrisburg Seven do not prove that scientific jury is effective - Academic research suggests that personality and demographic variables account for no more than 15% of the variance in verdicts – the ability to predict juror decisions based solely on their demographic and personality characteristics increases only slights with the use of scientific jury selection - Studies show that jurors report the nature and presentation of evidence is important in their decision making - Argue that academic research is flawed – studies often use college student samples when typical-age college students rarely vote and then it is rare they would be summoned for jury duty - Also some critics argue it is actually impossible to test because a true experiment in the field is impossible - Jury consultants are more likely to be used by wealthy clients who can afford to pay a hefty sum for such services Opening Statements - The next step is for the prosecution and then the defence to make an opening statement (an outline of what each side intends to present during the trial) - Attorneys are not required to do this but often do - Defense may opt to postpone opening statement until after the prosecution finishes presenting the case in its entirety Presentation of Evidence - The next step – the heart of the trial begins - Each side, beginning with the prosecution, has the opportunity to present evidence to make its case - Prosecution has the onus of proving that the perpetrator committed the crime that he has been accused - The defense does not have the same burden of proving the offender not guilty – but usually attempts to show through the cross-examination of the prosecutor’s witnesses and through evidence of their own that the defendant is not guilty - Evidence as presented in a criminal trial may be divided into direct and circumstantial evidence o Direct proves a fact – the testimony from a witness who testifies witnessing a murder for ex – more commonly perpetrators are providing direct evidence of their own crimes by filming them o Circumstantial is indirect evidence – the jury or judge must deduce what happened from the evidence. Nothing that directly links the offender to the crime - The prosecution and defense must follow strict rules in presenting their cases to the course – for ex the no-hearsay rule that stipulate that witnesses can only testify to what they have seen or heard directly and not what they have heard others say - In 1993, the supreme court made a ruling in Daubert v. Merrill Dow that gave more power to judges for determining what would be considered scientific evidence and whether such evidence would be admitted in the trial - For the most party judges are using their discretionary power by continuing to follow the 1923 supreme court ruling in Frye v. United States – to be permitted in court, evidence must be based on accepted scientific techniques - After the prosecution has presented their case, the defense may present their own evidence and witnesses - Defense may opt not to present a defence and simply rest if they believe the prosecution has not proven every element of the crime – they may make a motion for a mistrial - In rare occasion that the judge finds the prosecution has not presented evidence to suggest the accused should be convicted, he or she may grant a mistrial or a redirected verdict - In a mistrial the prosecutor has the option of retrying the case – if the judge orders a redirected verdict, he or she is ordering the jury to find the defendant not guilty, and in this case the offender may not be retried for the same crime Defenses to Murder - Attorneys for the defendant usually present evidence and arguments to demonstrate the defendant as not guilty - Three general defenses to the charge of murder are alibi, justifications, and excuses Alibi - Some criminologists argue that an alibi is a denial instead of a defence, other include it as a defence – but when murder defendants use an alibi they are arguing that they could not have killed the victim because they were somewhere else when victim was killed - In Latin alibi means elsewhere - The accused needs to demonstrate that he or she was not where the murder occurred - The judge or jury deciding the case will determine whether the evidence of alibi is valid Justifications - Murder defendants who employ a justification defense
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