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Criminal Procedure: Death Penalty Case

Jesse James, a 20-year old, was arrested for killing a police officer. As a newly elected prosecutor, you are responsible for prosecuting Mr. James. You announce your decision not to seek the death penalty in this case, but under your state's law, the offense charged is considered special circumstances, which would qualify as a death penalty case. Your decision does not sit well with the law enforcement community.

- List the various courts and hearings that will typically occur and how the case is affected by each event.

- Provide an overview of the various courts in the state system where Mr. James will appear and why he is appearing there, from arraignment to trial and the various levels of appeal. Be sure to provide specific information as it relates to any constitutional issues that may be raised at each stage in the process.

- What are the potential hearings that might be involved in this case? Be sure to describe them from the beginning to the end of the process.

- What are the relevant civil liberties issues pertaining to the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th Amendments present in this case?

Solution Preview

No problem. The questions were repetitive, so I only gave you an outline for the three: courts, hearings and civil liberties.

Notice that these four questions are really two, since they are repetitive.

List the various courts and hearings that will typically occur and how the case is affected by each event. What are the potential hearings that might be involved in this case? Be sure to describe them from the beginning to the end of the process.

Keep in mind that different states have different measures. In general, states follow some version of the federal rules of procedure. States do have freedom to chance certain things in the interst of justice.
The defendant has to enter a plea at the first stage of the "trial" process. This often follows an initial appearance or a preliminary hearing that often includes a plea if some evidence is found. If there is good reason to proceed, then a grand jury will be convened to investigate further. A grand jury has to provide evidence that warrants a capital murder trial. The district attorney's office can do the same. Pre-trial arraignments are then held, where the defendant is asked if he understands the charge. A plea can sometimes be entered here as well. If evidence warrants it, then a formal writ will be handed to the judge for the beginning of a trial. Pre-trial hearings are then held, and some witnesses might be questioned. The defendant usually has to issue a document if he is claiming that he has an alibi. He must state in detail where and when he was that exonerates him from the crime.
In some cases, a mental examination will be held, especially in capital cases. There can be a demand that, for multiple counts, trials be held separately so as not to bias the jury (guilty of the first, more likely that he is guilty of the second). Depositions may then be taken. These are mostly out of court testimonies from witnesses that form the basis of the defense or prosecution when the trial actually begins. Afterward (or sometimes concurrently) the defendant's comments on the case so far need to be made. Both of these steps can be part of discovery, depending on the state. At this stage, the defendant's record is exposed, and certain objects of evidence are handed over for the defendant's understanding.
A fairly new rule at the federal level, the "Pre-Trial Conference" is held to agree to certain parameters during the trial. The purpose is to make the trial faster and streamline the process in general. Then, the defendant can ask for a transfer to another jurisdiction. He must prove that the ...

Solution Summary

The criminal procedure for the death penalty cases are determined. The various courts and hearings that typically occur are listed.

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