The essence of the American system of justice is its adversarial nature, in which the state must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The essence of the American system of justice is its adversarial nature, in which the state must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is entitled to a vigorous, professional defense that need only prove the existence of real doubt about the defendant’s guilt. As the two sides contend in the courtroom, the judge serves as referee, ensuring due process and the correct application of the law, and the jury weighs the evidence and decides the question of guilt. A “not guilty” finding means that the constitutional protection against double jeopardy ensures that the defendant will not be tried again for the same offense (though this does not protect an acquitted defendant against a civil trial for damages, in which the standard of proof is lower).
In the United States, federal cases—those subject to federal law—are tried in federal district courts. Appeals from district courts go to federal appellate courts, which determine not guilt or innocence but rather ensure that mistakes were not made at the trial court level. The Supreme Court of the United States hears a limited number of further appeals. States maintain a parallel track of trial courts, appellate courts, and a state supreme court.
Serious problems still affect the U.S. court system. Courts are often overwhelmed with more cases than can be handled efficiently. Prosecutors enjoy (and occasionally abuse) enormous discretionary powers, including the right to decide which cases are prosecuted. Apart from a few highly paid celebrities, defense attorneys are typically overworked and not well compensated. Most Americans regard jury service as an unpleasant duty, and juries occasionally make serious mistakes. Victims are sometimes badly treated by defense attorneys and prosecutors. Members of racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented among prosecutors and judges, and a disproportionate share of death sentences are given to people of color. Judges and jurors often rely on expert witnesses to understand evidence, but not all expert testimony is reliable.

Anatomy of a criminal case link:

Anatomy of a criminal case.docx Download Anatomy of a criminal case.docx

Assignments for this week:

Read Chapter 8 and 9 in your books regarding the introduction to our Courts system.
Review the attached PowerPoints and use my lecture notes along the way to guide you for each section in Chapters 8/9.
Watch the two videos attached. No questions attached.

Drug court graduation:

Judge Sotomayor:

Discussion questions:

Innocence project link:

Innocence projectLinks to an external site.

Research on the internet the Innocence Project…in cases of wrongful conviction more than 70% of the time, the leading factor has been eyewitness identification. Why is that? What is the Innocence Project? How many cases have they exonerated to date?

When you find the innocence project website, click on a video case story. Tell us about what happen to that defendant?
Pro or con – support your arguments for a side on whether defendants wrongfully accused should be able to receive monetary damages from the state when they are later found not guilty due to DNA testing? Why?

Remember, you have all week to complete this discussion/assignment and reply to two fellow students…it is due next Sunday night 11:59 PM

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The essence of the American system of justice is its adversarial nature, in which the state must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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