The United States judicial system is broken down in two main categories, those being civil law and criminal law. Civil law is the arena of law that deals with conflicts between two individuals, usually for a tort or contract disputes. On the other side is criminal law, which is the forum used for individuals that have broken the law and are being punished for their wrongs. Both play a huge role in our judiciary system, but for this assignment, the criminal law element will be examined and discussed.
There are two main functions of the criminal courts in the United States, with those being to control crime and to punish those who break the law. (The Criminal Justice System, 2008) The purpose of these functions is to make sure citizens of this country are safe from being intruded upon from others and to show that committing crimes is not going to be allowed without there being repercussions. In serving these functions, there are several key players that are involved, ranging from the trier of facts to the two opposing attorneys. Each of these individuals and their roles to the criminal justice process are extremely important and will be discussed in further detail.
The roles of the attorneys in each case could be considered the most important role involved in this process. From a prosecutor’s perspective, their role is to ensure that the case they are pursuing can be convicted upon and this judgement be upheld. In criminal cases, a conviction can be only be delivered through the means of enough evidence that convinces the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. To achieve this goal, a prosecutor must make sure that their evidence was not obtained through any illegal manners and that it fits key elements required to be admissible in court. (Admissibility of Evidence, n.d.)
On the other side of the prosecution, is the accused and their defense attorney. Unless, of course the defendant decides to represent themselves, which does not occur regularly. The role of the defense is the opposite of the prosecutor, as they are hired to present a case of why the accused is innocent. Or in the situation of a public defender, they are appointed to do this. The obligation of this type of attorney is to ensure that they are diligent enough to represent the client to the best of their ability and competent enough to understand the case at hand. (“Rule 1.3, Diligence,” n.d.)
When applying the roles of the attorneys to the case of Tim Barns and Jack Carter, it was evident in the ruling that one of these parties out performed the other. This is because of the facts of the case, such as the confession being the main evidence used to convict these young men. If the defense attorney and their team would have presented a case based on this confession being illegally obtained because of the age of the defendant, the outcome could have been different. Also, it should have been pointed out by the defense that the only reason these two individuals were questioned was because of their choice of clothing and music. Ultimately, the difference of being guilty or not leans on the preparation of the attorneys involved, with the one being more prepared usually getting the favorable ruling.
In this case, the adversarial mode of the criminal court is being used. According to Barkan, (2009) this is the process of the opposing counsels essentially “fight it out” using evidence, with the judge present being the neutral party. This is evident because of how the prosecutor used their evidence to pursue a guilty judgement and conviction. The ruling in this case showed that the model of crime control was instrumental in this decision. Under this model, the courts feel that they must convict and punish to deter future crimes of the same nature. (Barkan, 2009) By the court ruling with this decision, it was almost as if the due process model did not even exist. Never was Jack Carter awarded his fundamental right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and this was shown because his confession was not obtained legally.
The next part of this assignment will focus on the role and importance of the usage of a jury during the criminal trial process. The United States, being a common-law nation, uses these groups of people, or juries, to determine the outcome in many criminal trials. (Schwartzbach, n.d.) As mentioned before, this group of people must be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt to render a judgement of guilty. Using the mantra of “innocent until proven guilty,” it is the function of the jury to ensure that the evidence adds up enough to make sure the correct person is going to be punished for the crimes committed.
There are numerous reasons why the jury is important to the American society. As highlighted by Barkan, (2009) three of these reasons include: it acts as “bulwark against grave official tyranny,” it allows for the public’s voice to heard, through the means as serving on juries, and that decisions rendered by juries create attention from the media and other outlets. The first of these, its actions as a blockade from tyranny, is important because it guarantees that an accused individual is treated equally, no matter the crime. The next one, allowing the public’s voice to be expressed, is important because collectively as jury, a statement can be made their decision. Lastly, the attention these decisions draw is important because it allows a message to be sent, mostly that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.
Something of equal importance is the role of the jury in the American society. Furthermore, then just delivering a conviction of innocent or guilty, the jury plays the role of showing Americans that if they do get into trouble, they can expect a fair trial and to have their rights upheld. On the other hand, the decisions of the jury can send powerful messages to those thinking about committing crimes. Generally, I do believe that juries are successful, but in this case of Barns and Carter, I feel the decision to convict was wrong. This is strictly based on the lack of evidence that proved that these two were guilty. From the illegally obtained confession to the testimonial from the witnesses, nothing presented would have convinced me that these two were guilty.
An attorney is a highly trained individual in the subject of law that has spent many years in school developing their education and skill. But just like many other professions, one bad apple can have an impact on how people view this profession. According to Russell, (2017) there are a few reasons why the public have negative thoughts about attorneys. These reasons include: lawyers protect and defend the guilty, they profit off the pain and misery of individuals, and that they intimidate and embarrass people. With there already being a stigma about lawyers, it can difficult to be seen in a positive manner as a legal professional. The opinion one develops about this case involving Tim and Jack really all depends on how you view the definition of justice. For example, if you are a believer of the traditional view of law, then your opinion maybe positive of the prosecution, as they were able to persuade the jury to see the case their way. But, if you view the judicial system through the prism of social science, your opinion could be that these two individuals were deprived of essential fundamental rights and convicted wrongly.
Those involved in criminal trials have a few tools at their disposal. The defendant, for example, may chose to plead guilty, not guilty, or even pursue a plea bargain. These plea bargains can be beneficial for both the defendant and the prosecution. The prosecuting attorney has many reasons for why they accept plea bargains, including: it ensures a conviction, which looks good for the attorney dealing with the case, it is more cost effective, and it reduces their workload. The reasons for a defendant to accept a plea deal are similar in the financial areas, but different otherwise. According to Barkan, (2009) some of these reasons include: it prevents uncertainty of their sentence, can help avoid being locked up in jail while waiting for their trial, and can lead to lesser charges, which could have an impact on future employment opportunities.
As with most items of importance in the legal arena, these plea bargains can also have a negative impact on those involved. One plea, the Alford Plea, is an example of this. Under this plea, the defendant does not admit guilt but pleads guilty to receive the bargain that was agreed upon. (Bibas, 2003) This kind of plea creates a dilemma and a perception about the individual entering the plea. The dilemma is of a moral nature because it makes the person chose to plead guilty, knowing that they are innocent and the only reason they are doing this is to get out of incarnation. No innocent person should have to admit guilt to receive something they should have had to begin with, that being freedom. Also, the perception that one admits guilt makes them guilty is something this person will have to deal with all their life and can be difficult to overcome.
Admissibility of Evidence (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.justia.com/criminal/procedure/admissibility-evidence/
Barkan, S. (2009) Law and Society: An Introduction. Retrieved from https://purdueuniversityglobal.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781269325561/cfi/6/26!/4/10/12/8@0:76.6
Bibas, S. (2003) Harmonizing Substantive Criminal Law Values and Criminal Procedure: The Case of Alford and Nolo Contendere Pleas. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/plea/four/nolo.html#65
Rule 1.3, Diligence (n.d.) In American Bar Association, Center for Professional Responsibility, Model rules of professional conduct. Retrieved from https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/rule_1_3_diligence/comment_on_rule_1_3/
Russell, M. (2017) Why Is It That Lawyers Get Such A Bad Reputation? Retrieved from http://abalawinfo.org/lawyers-get-bad-reputation/
Schwartzbach, M. (n.d.) Do All Countries Have Trial by Jury? Retrieved from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/do-countries-the-jury-trial-system.html
The Criminal Justice System (2008) Retrieved from https://victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/the-criminal-justice-system