June 6, 2011
David Mc Killop
Week 4 Courtroom Presentation Paper
Everyone has been in or seen a courtroom. If not personally, they have definitely seen one on television. Shows like Law & Order and the First 48 gives the generalization of how a criminal is caught, brought to justice and it’s done all within one hour. Then there are civil court shows like Judge Judy and Judge Mathis, where you can see what actually happens in a court of law when someone is sued. All in all, when you watch these shows you never get the full effect of the roles each person in a courtroom plays to bring a person to justice. Some roles are more important than others, but people like Bailiffs, Judges or even Jurors all share an amount of responsibility in making sure that justice is served.
In any courtroom you will see a Bailiff, Prosecutor, Defense Attorney, and a Judge. The Bailiff is usually a sheriff or a high- ranking police officer. Their presence alone keeps order in the courtroom amongst the audience all the way to the judge. A Bailiff’s role is simple. They swear in witnesses and they also play the go between man with the judge and jury. They call court to order and announce when the Judge enters the room. Their role is minimal but important still in its own way.
Next are the Defense Attorney and the Prosecution whose duties and responsibilities are basically the same. They must gather and present evidence to the jury to discredit or give reasonable doubt that a crime was or wasn’t committed. The Defense is there to advice his client on the right plea to take. He is also there to make sure his client understands what is going on and make sure his client gets a fair and speedy trial. Other than that their duties are the same. They both are there to discredit the other. They both participate in jury selection and establish witnesses that will benefit their case. Both are responsible for presenting their case to the Judge and Jury, but if the case never reaches a trial it’s usually due to both sides plea-bargaining. This is ultimately the Judges decision but is usually the reason why some cases don’t go to trial. The Judge has a key role in the criminal justice system. He is elected into office by his peers and is ultimately the last person to make any decision in regards to a case. Although they don’t say much a Judge has a lot of duties and responsibilities and is one of the most important people needed in a courtroom. They are there from start to finish in any case. At the preliminary hearing they are responsible for making sure the accused is aware of their rights, they enter a plea of either guilty, not guilty or no contest, and the Judge also sets the bail. During the trial they decide what evidence will be allowed. Their understanding of the law is important when keeping order and how the court proceedings will be handled. During the trial the judge makes sure the accused rights aren’t violated. The Judge also makes sure that the jury understands what a person is charged with whether it is First –degree or second-degree murder. It is the Judges responsibility to make sure the Jury knows the difference. Last but not least they have control over the sentencing. This is the most important part aside from the Jury decision on whether or not the accused is guilty. Although The Judge’s role and responsibility seems to be the most important in the court, it is the role and responsibility of the Jury that is needed more than anything. Everyone has the right to a trial by an “impartial” jury, which means that the trial will be fair. To be fair, some believe a person must be tried amongst a group of one’s peers. This means that they are from the same community/area. Sex, race and ethnicity have no bearings in any case, as far as jury selection. Jury’s bring diversity, different perspectives and views. It is up to the Defense and the Prosecution to make sure the right people are chosen, and that they will be more in favor of their case when presented in court. This is why Juror’s must go through a jury selection. People who will be beneficial to either the Prosecutions or Defenses case are kept and those who appear to have no bearings on the case aren’t selected. Once on the Jury they are given instructions by the judge on how the case will go, what they are to listen for, and what a person is charged with. Then they listen to the case and they are to determine if the accused is responsible for their actions by a reasonable doubt. Meaning if there is any doubt in their mind that the accused is innocent, then the doubt is placed, and either they must be convicted of a lesser crime or the case must be dismissed period. All the evidence and witnesses presented in court is done with wondering how the jury will perceive it. Their impression on the evidence has the greatest impact and is ultimately what will determine the fate of the accused in all cases. That is why it is important that the Judge gives the verdict choices to the Jury and that he makes sure that the Jury understands them when they go to deliberate. They then return and give their verdict of guilty, not guilty to the offense the accused was charged or to a lesser charge period. Anyone can see that the Jury is important in any court proceedings. Jury’s will always have a key role in the court system and their role is most important. There are many roles and responsibilities in the court system. There are bailiffs, prosecutors, defense attorneys but the most important is the jury. Their roles and responsibilities are important and are needed to ensure that the criminal court system is run appropriately. That is why there is so much put into jury selection. They are the deciding factor in determining how long a person will be spending of their life in jail.