Homicide Pre-Trial Considerations
Daniel Mayfruit has been accused of committing murder, a crime that could be punishable by death if he is found culpable. He has to undergo a variety of criminal procedures. These procedures safeguard the defendant against the indiscriminate and unlawful judgment of perceived criminals and unfair treatment of those suspected of having committed a crime. The procedures are meant to implement the constitutional rights of the suspects from their first contact with the police, investigation, trial and, sentencing.
Steps between arrest and trial
Various steps have to occur between the time of the defendant’s arrest and the actual trial of his case. A criminal trial will officially begin with the arrest of the defendant. Arrest involves taking the defendant into custody because of the criminal charge leveled against him. The next step after the arrest is having the defendant arraigned in court. During this stage, the defendant appears before the court to hear the charges against him as well as to enter a plea.
The preliminary hearing occurs after the arraignment step. The preliminary hearing involves the determination of whether there is enough evidence to prosecute the accused. If the court finds that there is sufficient evidence to try the case, then the case will head for a grand-jury review. In other instances, the information is filed in the trial court.
The Grand Jury is the next step whereby 23 people are chosen to sit for a month and deliberate on whether indictments should be made in the case. If the jury decides that there is sufficient and strong evidence against the defendant, then the jury will return a true bill or a bill of indictment. The bill of indictment charges the suspect with a particular charge or crime.
The following step is the indictment procedure. The court produces a formal accusation against the defendant in written form. The indictment has to have been affirmed by the grand jury. The indictment is presented to the court for the commencement of criminal proceedings against the defendant.
The final three steps before the actual trial include information, hearing on pre-trial motions, and the intention to seek the death penalty. The information stage involves the prosecutor filing a formal written charge against the defendant without the assistance of the grand jury. The next stage, the hearing on pre-trial motions is held to decide issues pertaining to the case that involve the law and facts of the case. There are some instances whereby witnesses are called upon to testify at this stage, even though the official trial has not yet begun. The last stage is the intention to seek the death penalty. At this stage, the prosecution is expected to announce to the court whether it intends to seek a death penalty if the defendant (in this case, Mayfruit) is found guilty.
There is also a variety of rights that Mayfruit will enjoy during the court proceedings. He has the right to a quick and public trial. He also has the right to be tried by an impartial jury in the district that he committed the crime. He also deserves to know the nature and cause of the accusation hurled against him, to know and be confronted by the witnesses to the crime, his character, and those against him. He also deserves to have the opportunity to gather witnesses who are in his favor and to have a lawyer defend him throughout the pre-trial and trial. Other rights include freedom from insensible seizures and searches, the freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, protection from self-incrimination, and protection from double jeopardy.
Rules Governing Discovery
Discovery is the process by which parties to the case obtain information pertaining to the case before the trial begins. The premise underlying the process is that all the parties need to go into the trial with all the information required. In addition, neither party shall hide any pertinent facts from each other. In criminal cases, there is limited discovery. The limited discovery doctrine is meant to protect the protection witnesses from intimidation/persecution. The doctrine also prevents the occurrence of perjury, which might become common due to unabridged disclosure (Grenig, 2002).
There are many methods involved in the discovery process. One common method is the deposition whereby persons involved in the case give an out-of-court statement usually written under oath. Other methods include subpoenaing, submitting to physical examinations, and demanding for certain pertinent documents to be presented in court.
There are various rules that govern discovery in a criminal proceeding such as this one. Most of the rules are placed under different constitutional amendments and sentences in previous cases. It should be noted that the American constitution provides several protections to the defendant in a criminal case including murder cases. Examples of protections include the right to know and confront witnesses and the right against self-incrimination.
In terms of discovery, the prosecution is required by law to turn all impeachment evidence to the defendant. The defendant has no such duty because of the constitutional protection from self-incrimination. In addition, any evidence in the hands of the defendant that might lead to self-incrimination is protected by the constitution from discovery by the prosecution.
Under this law, a state may allow a warrantless search of an automobile if the police has reasonable belief that the vehicle has evidence pertaining to a crime. The police officer can search the vehicle with the exception of the trunk without a warrant. This exception is in contrast to the Fourth Amendment that secures the right of a citizen from a warrantless search of his person, property, and papers. The U.S. Supreme Court has already declared that automobile exception is not in violation of the Fourth Amendment because drivers have ‘reduced expectation of privacy’ and the vehicle is mobile.
The Process of Plea-Bargaining
Plea bargaining is the process of resolving a criminal court case outside the court. Both sides of the case coming to an agreement achieve the process of plea-bargaining. There are several reasons why plea bargains are prevalent. These reasons include the prosecution and the defense team seeking a way to avoid a lengthy and costly trial. In addition, the plea bargain avoids all the uncertainty associated with proceeding with the trial.
Plea-bargaining involves convincing the defendant to agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge or to plead guilty to one of several charges. It may also involve the defendant having to plead guilty to the offence with the prosecution promising to push for a lenient sentence. It should be noted that the judge is not obliged to follow the prosecution’s recommendations.
There are several plea-bargains that are afforded to the defendant by the prosecution team. Charge bargaining involves the defendant pleading guilty to a far lesser charge than the original charge. In other instances, charge bargaining involves taking the less serious charge in a multitude of charges.
Count bargaining is where the defendant agrees to plead guilty to one or more of the original charges. The prosecution then agrees to drop all the other charges as a result. Most people view count bargaining as a segment of charge bargaining.
Sentence bargaining is whereby the prosecution recommends a lenient sentencing if the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the charges or to enter a no contest plea. The final form of plea-bargaining is fact bargaining. Fact bargaining involves the defendant having to take a plea bargain if the prosecution agrees to omit certain facts from the case. If the omitted facts were to be heard in open court then the defendant would be at risk of having a longer sentence than if the facts were left out of the court (Tor, Gazal-Ayal, and Garcia, 2010).
Various Pleas and their Ramifications
There are several benefits of taking a plea bargain for both the defense and the prosecution. Agreeing to a plea bargain is beneficial for a defendant because it reduces the uncertainty of actually going to court. If the case were to go to trial, there is a chance that the defendant might be freed or he might get the maximum sentence. A plea-bargain helps the defendant strike a favorable deal with the prosecution to reduce his sentence.
Another benefit to the defendant stems from the reduction in charges. Most plea-bargains will involve the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge so as to avoid a longer sentence. A lesser charge looks better than a more serious one on a permanent record. In addition, a lesser charge will not have serious implications on future charges and convictions especially in three-strike states. Finally, the reduction of charges ensures that the defendant is not excluded from a number of things that civilians are allowed to do including voting (Luna, 2007).
Other benefits that Mayfruit might enjoy from entering into a plea bargain with the prosecution include avoiding unwarranted publicity, stigmatizing sentences, and avoiding the hassle involved with going to trial. Several crimes such as murder and rape have a significantly higher social stigma attached to them compared to other crimes. Entering a plea bargain will ensure that the stigma associated with his crime is dropped.
Grenig, J. (2002). Handbook of Federal Civil Discovery and Disclosure. 2nd Ed. St. Paul, Minn, West Group.
Luna, E. (2007). Bargaining in the shadow of the law- the relationship between plea bargaining and criminal code structure: victims, apology, and restorative justice in criminal law.
Tor, A., Gazal-Ayal, O., & Garcia, S. (2010). Fairness and the willingness to accept plea-bargain offers. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 7(1), 97-116.