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How a trial proceeds

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How a trial proceeds. Federal vs. state charges If the activity is specifically federal (example- interstate commerce, spying, treason, etc.) then governed by federal law If not outlined in constitution, federal courts have no jurisdiction, up to the state systems (CAN break both)

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how a trial proceeds
How a trial proceeds
  • Federal vs. state charges
    • If the activity is specifically federal (example- interstate commerce, spying, treason, etc.) then governed by federal law
    • If not outlined in constitution, federal courts have no jurisdiction, up to the state systems (CAN break both)
    • It all starts by filing the charges…
civil vs criminal charges
Civil vs. Criminal Charges
  • Civil cases are between two parties that have similar rights, the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff must (usually) prove that their version of the facts is more correct than the defendant’s “by a preponderance of the evidence,” which means “more likely than not.” In a civil case, both parties must provide to the other side (when requested) any possessed relevant information.
  • Criminal cases involve “society,” i.e. the state (local to federal) claiming that the defendant has engaged in some behavior so egregious that society itself will not tolerate it. The state must prove their facts “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a burden of proof much higher than the civil standard. In a criminal action the state must provide the defense with all information, but the defense has no obligation to reciprocate
rules for evidence
Rules for Evidence
  • Hearsay literally means information gathered by the first person from a second person concerning some event, condition, or thing of which the first person had no direct experience (generally not allowed)
  • 401 – Definition of “Relevant Evidence”.This rule says basically that any evidence admitted at trial must be relevant and to be relevant, it must have the tendency to make the existence of a fact more or less probable.
  • 403 – Exclusion of Relevant Evidence on Grounds of Prejudice, Confusion, or Waste of Time.This rule allows the exclusion of relevant evidence if its value is outweighed by its danger of unfair prejudice, undue delay, waste of time, or unnecessary duplication of evidence already presented.
  • 602 – Lack of Personal Knowledge. This rule says that a witness can testify only to what she has personal knowledge of, and that foundation of that knowledge has been adequately shown through testimony by that witness or another witness.
  • All information is brought before the jury through the testimony of witnesses. A witness is a person, with knowledge, who is called by a party, sworn to tell the truth, and through questioning relays that information to the jury
  • Lay witnesses are allowed to testify to information of which they have personal knowledge. Lay witnesses are generally precluded from testifying in the form of an opinion unless the information is “(a) rationally based on the perceptions of the witness and (b) helpful to a clear understanding of his testimony or the determination of a fact in issue
  • An expert witness is a person who by virtue of education, experience, skill, or training has knowledge of a specific subject beyond that of a normal person. Expert witnesses may give opinions about evidence within their scope of expertise. An expert has “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge” to assist the fact-finder. Once qualified by the Court, the expert may give opinion testimony if “(1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.”
  • Criminal prosecutions typically begin with an investigation conducted by an executive investigative agency.  In a federal case, the investigative agency is generally the FBI or an executive agency, such as the EPA.  In a state prosecution, the investigative agency is normally the state or local police.  
  • During the investigation, the agency will gather evidence by interviewing witness, reviewing records, and conducting forensic testing.  If the investigative agency determines that sufficient evidence exists of criminal activity, the agency will refer the matter to the appropriate prosecutor - United States Department of Justice or the state, county, or local prosecutor’s office.
pre trial
  • In American law, discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party, through the law of civil procedure, can obtain evidence from the opposing party by means of discovery devices including requests for answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions and depositions. Discovery can be obtained from non-parties using subpoenas. When discovery requests are objected to, the requesting party may seek the assistance of the court by filing a motion to compel discovery
  • In a criminal case, defense can file motions to compel, forcing the state to supply specific information pertinent to the case, but the state cannot force defendant to supply information
  • Jury Selection (voir dire) picks jury members from community, each side can ask questions and object within limits
  • Plaintiff makes case first, presenting witnesses to introduce information (info can also be entered as briefs or displays)
  • Defense makes it’s case after the plaintiff rests
  • Witnesses are cross-examined (from opposing side, idea is to get favorable facts from witness or to call their credibility into question, lessening the weight of their testimony). i.e. opposing lawyer is out to trick and discredit the witness, this can be a most unpleasant experience.
the libby criminal case
The Libby criminal case
  • Vermiculite Mine in NW Montana town of Libby, contained asbestosform amphiboles
  • BUT, these amphiboles characterized as winchite and richterite – NOT one of the 6 regulated asbestos materials
  • Criminal charges brought against executives of company that owned the mine – W.R. Grace.
  • They had already settled civil penalties by paying into asbestos worker fund
  • Trial in 2009 – all defendants found not guilty
vag mine suits
VAG Mine suits
  • US Dept. of Justice settlement in 2009 (09-659) reached settlement with company called G-I
  • Under the settlement, G-I will take immediate steps at the VAG Site by constructing fencing, gates and road barriers to restrict public access; providing onsite surveillance and securing the mill buildings. They will also monitor air emissions from the piles; conduct dust suppression, if necessary, and provide support to EPA and Vermont for future sampling and monitoring. These tasks will take place over eight years, at a cost of up to $7.75 million. The need for dust suppression will depend on the air monitoring results. G-I will also reimburse the federal and state governments for past and future cleanup costs at the VAG Site and related off-site contamination. G-I, now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, will reimburse a portion of EPA and Vermont’s cleanup costs up to 8.6 percent of $300 million. Finally, G-I will pay $850,000 for damages to local wetlands and waterways contaminated by the site.
  • Also a civil case (Prive v. VAG and Howard Manosh)