Court Process, Judicial Process, and Constitutional Issues Essay

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9/11 terror attacks was characterized by enactment of new laws and executive orders that focused on enhancing homeland security. However, these laws and orders have become controversial because they have ceded power to the executive branch and limited people's rights. Some examples of these limitations include restrictions on privacy, limitation of free speech and association rights, and limitation of religious freedom. While these actions were necessary to help prevent another attack, they are inappropriate since they compromise civil rights and checks and balances established in America's democracy. The federal government would have taken less drastic measures through reordering priorities of law enforcement instead of generating fundamental changes in law.

Week 5: Discussion

In the American judicial system, the Supreme Court reviews very few cases most of whom are appeals from lower courts. It should not be mandatory for the Supreme Court to review more cases despite having appellate jurisdiction. The best legal standard to determine whether the Supreme Court should review a case includes the national significance of the case, its precedential value, and the need to create harmony between conflicting decisions.

Week 6: Discussion 1

The U.S. Supreme Court is an important element of the nation's criminal justice system given its original and appellate jurisdiction. Through its original and appellate jurisdiction, the Supreme Court provides precedence which guides the criminal justice system. While local, regional, county, and state customs and practices should be revered, it's essential to have one overarching court interpreting criminal law to help avoid confusion. Therefore, Supreme Court practices can be improved through considering these customs when interpreting criminal law.

The Process after a Criminal Trial

The process of a criminal trial varies somewhat across states because of differences in criminal justice policies. However, most criminal cases or trials follow relatively similar stages until the case is decided or resolved. Generally, a criminal trial is the proceeding during which the plaintiff and defendant present evidence to argue their claims. The main aim of a criminal trial is to determine whether the prosecution or plaintiff can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. As a result, after a criminal trial has been completed, there are two possible outcomes i.e. an acquittal or a conviction based on the law.

Probable Outcomes of a Criminal Trial

A jury or judge determine a criminal case after both sides present their evidence and make closing arguments. Once this is carried out, the judge or jury determines applicable legal standards depending on the criminal charges and evidence presented in the criminal trial (Find Law, n.d.). After jurors receive instructions from the judge regarding the applicable legal standards, they consider the case through a process known as deliberation, which is a process geared towards determining whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. Deliberation is a systematic process that last for a period of between a few hours to several weeks depending on the complexity of the case and evidence presented during trial.

Once a verdict is reached, it's presented to the judge who announces it in open court.

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Based on their laws, many states require a jury in a criminal case to be unanimous in their findings. However, the majority opinion is considered as the final determination of the case. In a situation where the jury is at a standstill, the judge can declare a mistrial, which may result in dismissal of the case or re-starting the trial from the jury selection stage.

If the defendant is found innocent of the charges brought against him/her, he/she is acquitted and free from any criminal consequences even if new incriminating evidence arises. An acquittal is usually granted where there is insufficient evidence to prove the defendant's guilt or it's beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is not guilty. Once an acquittal is granted after a criminal trial, the accused or defendant can no longer be tried for similar charges. The defendant is prevented from being tried twice for the same offense by double jeopardy laws. This implies that the case comes to an end and cannot be appealed even if new incriminating evidence emerges.

However, if the defendant/accused is found guilty or convicted of the crime, he/she is sentenced based on laws relating to the crime. Before a judge announces the sentence reached by the jury in a criminal trial, the defendant is entitled to allocution (Temchenko, 2016). Allocution is the defendant's right to directly speak to the judge without the assistance of his/her legal counsel. When addressing the judge, the defendant may provide a personal explanation of unknown issues relating to the case, apologize for the criminal behavior or ask for mercy. The right of allocution is granted to the defendant as an opportunity for him/her to show remorse or explain motivations behind the criminal acts. During this process, the defendant seeks to influence the judge to be lenient in his/her sentence.

The judge then issues the sentence, which varies depending on the severity of the crime since a sentence is a formal legal consequence relating to a conviction. Some of the most common criminal sentences include probation, short-term imprisonment, life in prison, and long-term incarceration. When sentencing, the victims' rights are taken into consideration, especially the right to justice. The right to justice implies that the offender should obtain punishment that is equivalent to his/her criminal act and behavior. Secondly, victims are sometimes given the right to express their feelings and experiences during sentencing. When presenting these feelings and experiences, victims describe the harm they have suffered and the impact of the crime. Victims can share these feelings and experiences either orally or in writing without directly responding to questions from lawyers.

After sentencing, the prosecution or defense has the right to appeal, which is usually done to a higher court in the same system. The prosecution can appeal when an immediate court rules in favor of a defendant-appellant or when the trial court upholds a motion that terminates the prosecution........

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Bigel, A.I. (2012, January 1). Justices William J. Brennan, Jr. and Thurgood Marshall on Capital Punishment: Its Constitutionality, Morality, Deterrent Effect, and Interpretation by the Court. Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy, 8(1), 11-163.

Burt, R.A. (2012). Disorder in the Court: The Death Penalty and the Constitution. Retrieved from Yale Law School website:

Frase, R.S. (2005). The Warren Court's Misses Opportunities in Substantive Criminal Law. Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, 3(75), 75-103.

Goldberg, A.J. & Dershowitz, A.M. (2012). Declaring the Death Penalty Unconstitutional. Harvard Law Review, 83, 1773-1819.

Haas, K.C. (2007). The Emerging Death Penalty Jurisprudence of the Roberts Court. University of New Hampshire Law Review, 6(3), 387-440.

Huston, W.T. (2015, October 31). John Robert's Supreme Court May Take Case to End the Death Penalty. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from

Northwestern University School of Law. (2012). Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Death Penalty Cases: Furman v. Georgia, Jackson v. Georgia, Branch v. Texas, 408 U.S. 238 (1972). Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 63(4), 484-491.

Wheeler, L. (2015, October 31). Will the Roberts Court Abolish Capital Punishment? The Hill. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from

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