The constitution and the courts
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The Constitution and the Courts. Lt. Kaffee - “I want the truth!” Col. Jessup- “You can’t handle the truth!”. Structure of the Judiciary.

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The Constitution and the Courts

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The constitution and the courts

The Constitution and the Courts

Lt. Kaffee- “I want the truth!”

Col. Jessup- “You can’t handle the truth!”


Structure of the judiciary

Structure of the Judiciary

  • The Articles of Confederation had no national judiciary system; the states had their own laws, ignored other states’ laws, and interpreted national laws differently

  • The U.S. Constitution sought to solve this problem; it created two court systems- the state courts and the national courts

    Federal Courts

  • Regular Courts (Constitutional Courts): these federal courts hear cases involving: federal crimes, federal officials, foreign officials, disputes between states & acts of Congress

  • Special Courts: specific courts that have narrow jurisdiction (the authority of a court to hear, try, & decide a case) such as tax courts, military courts, territorial courts


State courts

State Courts

  • Cover all courts in each state, that are not part of the federal judiciary.

  • The vast majority of cases in the U.S. are decided in state courts.

  • The rules for state courts very by state, except where the 14th Amendment applies Constitutional protections to states.


Types of court cases

Types of Court Cases

1. Civil cases- between private parties; one civilian sues another for compensation (non- criminal) for such things as breach of contract, property damage/ loss, job discrimination, divorce, etc. Brought forth by a plaintiff- person/ entity who files suit and leads to a reward or compensation

2. Criminal cases- defendant (the person whom the complaint is against) is tried for committing some action that Congress or a state has declared to be a crime; the state brings forth the claim (is the prosecution) A person could be not- guilty in a criminal case, but lose in a civil case

3. Constitutional/ Unconstitutional questions of a law- the Supreme Court or one of its 94 District Courts rules whether a law goes against the Constitution or not


Fifth amendment rights

Fifth Amendment Rights

  • Grand jury is guaranteed in federal crime cases

  • Grand jury hands down anindictment- formal charge that the prosecutor gets to proceed with a trial; there is enough evidence

  • Proceedings are not a trial- only prosecution in present, sessions are secret, jury talks to all

  • Double Jeopardy- cannot be tried twice for same crime

  • “pleading the fifth” means you cannot testify because you could incriminate yourself; could happen in any kind of formal government proceedings

  • could be tried for same actions in both federal & state courts

  • hung jury means no decision & can be retried

  • Eminent Domain (government can take private property for public good)

  • Due Process for all


6 th amendment rights

6th Amendment Rights

  • Right to a “Speedy & Public Trial”

  • no secret deals or trials

  • Media cannot interfere with defendant’s right to a fair trial; jury may be sequestered (secluded from the public) to ensure this

  • no delay between arrest & beginning of trial… must start trial within 100 days of arrest (exceptions deal with health)

  • Why the need? A.) For victim, administering justice B.) For accused, not wasting time, particularly if innocent and C.) So memories & evidence stays reliable


6 th amendment impartial jury

6th Amendment Impartial Jury

  • jury must come from the district where crime was committed, but can be moved to another location by a “change of venue”- the people of the locality are so prejudiced on the case that impartial jury cannot be guaranteed

  • jury must base their decision on trial facts only

  • must be no outside influence at all; media could be banned from courtroom (TV & radio are banned from federal trials)

  • jury will not see “tainted evidence”

  • defendant can waive right to jury and get bench trial- only a judge will hear case


Juries grand jury petit jury

Juries (Grand Jury & Petit Jury)

  • The accused has a right to a speedy trial & to be judged an impartial jury of his/ her peers (usually 12)

    • Guaranteed in federal crime cases

    • Can be waved


Grand juries

Grand Juries

  • Grand Jury: their function is to determine whether the evidence against a person charged with a crime is sufficient to justify a trial, i.e. indictment

  • Could be 6 to 23 people (varies by state)

  • Jurors select a foreman to oversee their discussion

  • Hear evidence, question witnesses, summon witnesses & then meet in secret to make decision

  • If there is enough evidence- case goes to trial with new jury


Petit jury trial jury

Petit Jury (Trial Jury)

  • Petit Jury (or trial jury): makes decisions based on facts in both civil & criminal cases… judge is there to interpret & apply law

  • In most states, juries must be unanimous, but in some, simple majority

  • Felony- A serious crime, i.e. murder, assault, drug trafficking, rape, fraud, grand larceny, etc.

  • In misdemeanor cases(minor criminal cases), & minor civil cases, no jury is used… bench trial: judge used

  • A person can wave their right to a jury trial and choose a bench trial.

  • In some states, or in some situations, bench trials are far more common.


Selection of jurors

Selection of Jurors

  • List taken from list of eligible voters

  • Jurors are summoned to serve; excused for good reason only (poor understanding of Eng., public service job, criminals)

  • Juries must come to an unanimous decision on either guilty or not- guilty; if jury is split, it is a hung jury and the case needs a new jury (& is retried) or case is dropped

  • Jurors are paid $19.00 by Hamilton County

  • May be called, but may not serve

  • Lawyers will interview jury candidates & dismiss ones that will not favor their side/ client

  • Length of service: usually two weeks


Key terms

Key Terms

  • Indictment- Formal Accusation that a person has committed a crime.

  • Arraignment- hearing at which suspect is officially charged

  • Preliminary hearing- judge will decide if this is the suspect, these are the circumstances & this is where everything happens; can we go to grand jury?

  • Right to see and question witnesses for and against you

  • Subpoena- court order to appear in court as a witness


6 th amendment right to council

6thAmendment Right To Council

Assistance of Counsel is guaranteed

  • can waive this right

  • do not have to answer questions without lawyer, particularly when under duress at police department

  • attorney must be furnished to defendant who cannot afford one; public defenders are paid for by public tax money (exist in local, state, & federal courts)


8 th amendment

8th Amendment

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed…”: bail or fine in a case must bear reasonable relationship to seriousness of crime involved.

  • Bail: sum of money that accused may be required to post to guarantee that he/ she will appear in court at proper time. Why do we have bail? 1.) accused may be innocent and 2.) defendant can better prepare for trial out of jail

  • Bail is not guaranteed in all cases, but it is guaranteed it will not be excessive

  • Sometimes, defendants are released “on their own recognizance”: no money needed; on their honor to show

  • Failure to appear for trial (“jumping bail”) is a crime

  • Bail bondsman: loan money to accused to get out of jail… bondsman get money back from court when accused shows up & they get a fee from accused

  • Preventative detention: the accused can be held without bail because there is fear of more crimes before trial

  • Denial of bail also occurs when there is risk of flight


8 th amendment continued

8th Amendment Continued

  • “… shall be no cruel and unusual punishment:

  • Our Supreme Court has interpreted this Amendment as intending to forbid barbaric tortures such as burning at the stake, crucifixion, and drawing and quartering.

  • Rarely does the Supreme Court rule in favor of cruel & unusual punishment

  • If court decides punishment is cruel, sentence is change; criminal is NOT let go


Capital punishment

Capital Punishment

Capital punishment- punishment by death

  • In Furman v. Georgia, 1972, the Supreme Court struck down all of the existing death penalty laws in states; they did not say that capital punishment was cruel, rather they said the state laws gave too much discretion to judges or juries in deciding whether to impose the death penalty.

  • 38 states have passed new capital punishment laws since

  • two stage approach must be taken: 1. Trial to decide guilt or innocence and 2. Separate trial to decide whether the circumstances justify a sentence of death (same jury)

  • capital punishment can only result from “crimes resulting in the death of the victim”

  • cannot be imposed on minors or mentally challenged

  • Summarizing: death penalty, if applied fairly, in constitutional

  • No one has been hanged for treason! (levying war against the U.S. or giving aid & comfort to enemies. John Brown was hanged by Virginia)


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