Criminal Justice

1. What are some examples of when venue, or jurisdiction, may become an issue in a criminal case? Do you feel that it is fair to remove a criminal case from a VENUE simply due to media coverage? Why, or why not?

2. Many countries do not conduct a trial when addressing legal issues; as such, the American legal system is unique in this respect. Please discuss your thoughts on the role of the trial jury and whether this is a positive or negative aspect of our system of justice.

3. Discuss the role of plea bargaining in criminal trials. What are the advantages of allowing defendants to plea to reduced charges/sentences? To what extent should victims of crimes be consulted in the plea bargaining process? Make sure you state whether you agree or disagree with the plea bargaining process.

4. You are an undercover officer who is on the stand testifying at the trial of a mid-level drug organization member. During cross-examination you have been asked by the defendant’s attorney to reveal the name of your informant in the organization. You have been advised by the prosecutor and your commander to not reveal the name of this informant as doing so would result in the loss of a very valuable resource inside the drug organization and most likely the informant’s life as well. The judge has ordered you to answer the question over the objection of the District Attorney handling the case and warned you that you will be held in contempt of court and placed in a jail cell until such time as you will answer the question.

Discuss how you would handle this situation and your reasons.

5. You have been selected to be a juror on a rape trial. The victim presented very graphic and compelling testimony that she was raped by the defendant and that she was told by the defendant that if she resisted, she would be killed. The victim also stated that the defendant had a gun when the attack occurred. The prosecution presented DNA evidence that the defendant engaged in sexual activity with the victim but there is little physical evidence to support the victim’s claims that the sex was not consensual (bruising, tearing, cuts, etc.) The defendant has chosen not to testify at trial.

As a juror, what do you think about the defendant’s decision not to testify at trial? Would you want to hear from the defendant during the trial or could you not consider in any way the defendant’s decision not to testify? Make sure to explain your reasoning.

6. Our system of justice provides that a jury should be comprised of one’s peers. This means that ordinary people from the community in which the crime occurred are placed in the role of determining who is right in a criminal case. The only exposure most ordinary people who would serve on a jury have to the justice system is what they see on TV, in the movies or learn as part of their everyday experiences. Would our jury system be improved if paid professional jurors (people who had specialized training in the law and whose job it would be to hear and decide cases) were used instead of ordinary people from the community? What problems might arises as a result of the use of professional jurors?

7. The state in which you live currently has legislation requiring that all juries consist of 12 individuals and that the verdict be unanimous. In response to recent high-profile case that resulted in a verdict of not guilty, two proposals have been introduced into the legislature to amend how juries will operate. The first is a proposal to eliminate the need for a unanimous verdict so that a majority of 9 of the 12 jurors is all that is needed for a verdict of guilty, or not guilty, in criminal cases. A second proposal has been introduced that would change the number of jurors from 12 to 6 in all criminal cases but would keep the requirement that the verdict be unanimous.

Discuss you reaction to these proposed amendments. What are the pros and cons of each proposal and would these proposals be constitutional?

8. At the federal level, sentences are largely determined by sentencing guidelines that determine the amount of jail time an offender will receive. At the state level, many legislatures have adopted “three strike” laws that require a three-time convicted felon to automatically receive a sentence of life without parole. Should the sentence for a crime be left up to the legislatures to determine, or should judges have more control over the sentences? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages to each approach.

Each question should have an answer of at least 100 to 150 words.

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