Urgent Assignment

Question

Write an essay of 750-1,000 words in which you:

– Discuss the rights of victims and defendants in the criminal trial process.
– Explain the sources of those rights at both the state and federal levels.

Answer

Rights of Victims and Defendants in the Criminal Trial Process

The criminal trial process is regulated and controlled by the constitution to ensure it is free, fair, and within the law borders. In general, the trial process involves back and forth correspondence between the victim or plaintiff, the defendant, the jury, the judge and other legal partners. In the trial, the jury examines the evidence from both the victims and the defendant’s side to prove beyond a reasonable doubt whether the defendant committed the crime. Both sides are given the opportunity to provide their own evidence in their own support and refute the other side’s evidence.

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Most criminal cases are decided by juries who are selected by the judge, the plaintiff, and the defendant’s attorney. The three parties question a group of potential jurors and lean towards general questioning on the themes of the case. The defense and prosecution may eliminate jurors through peremptory challenges of challenges for cause on the evaluation of how individual jurors may be biased or influence the case verdict in their favor. This is followed by opening statements by both parties with the prosecutor presenting their case first. The prosecutor presents a detailed account of the crime from their perspective and outlines to the jury and the judge the defendant’s crime and their own reasoning or interpretation of the incident. The defendant then presents their own interpretation of the facts and outlines any disagreement to the victim’s evidence. Next, witnesses are called upon to the stand and are sworn in. They are then cross-examined by both parties. This is often a vigorous and engaging process. Afterward, both sides are allowed to make their closing statements and appeal to the juries in their favor. Finally, the judge gives the jury a set of legal regulations tailored for the case through which the jury uses to make a verdict based on the unanimous jury vote. Failure to reach a unanimous verdict may prompt the judge to declare a mistrial. The case in such a situation is completely dismissed or is taken back to court again.

During the founding of the American nation, victims had few to few rights in the criminal justice system. They were rarely involved in the trial process and often had minimal information concerning the defendant or the verdict. Over time, most states have formed bodies to promote victims’ rights. Mainly through statutory provisions. They have also enforced amendments in their state constitutions in order to make the protection role easier. At the national level, the Crime Victims’ Rights Act was enacted as part of the Justice for All Act of 2004. Among the rights that victims enjoy, today is the right to attend, the right to compensation and restitution, the right to privacy and protection and the right to be heard and informed of the trial’s progress.

Legal jurisdictions now give the victim as well as their family and supporting persons the right to attend court hearings. However, a victim is limited to attend case hearings in which they are also witnesses. More states and regulations are now allowing the victims to attend even when they are witnesses in an effort to promote freedom and transparency in the trial process.

The aim of introducing provisions on compensation and restitution is to bring the victim back to the level where they were prior to the crime. This includes both materials as well as emotional or psychological compensation (Fletcher, 1996). Victim rights’ statutes provide financial and material compensation to these victims under state and federal programs. Some of the variables that can be considered in compensation include medical expenses, therapy expenses, trial expenses, insurance, and lost property. In addition, the federal constitution and state constitutions have created organized and secure systems of compensation collection.

Moreover, victims are eligible for adequate protection and privacy from the defendant and other stakeholders who may further threaten or intimidate the victim during or after the trial (Fletcher, 1996). This protection and provision of privacy further encourage victims of crimes to seek legal protection in case of crimes. In extent, the ability to safely report and seek justice further strengthens the legal system and security in a state and nationally. Finally, they also have the right to be heard and be informed during and after the trial process without intimidation (Fletcher, 1996). This right applies to both the prosecutor and their own attorneys in reference to full disclosure of the events of the trial. Some of the aspects of the proceedings that the victim has the right to know include arrest, arraignment and release of the accused, trial dates, parole or pardon of the accused and the conditions leading to parole.

Similarly, the defendant is protected by the constitution and these rights have been progressively enhanced through amendments on federal statutes and state constitutions. Traditionally, the federal constitution has been a major source of information regarding these rights. For example, the Fourth Amendment rights protect the defendant against unreasonable searches and seizures while the Fifth Amendment Rights offers protection against self-incrimination by giving defendants the right to remain silent during arrest and at trial (Nagel, 1992).

On the other hand, the Sixth Amendment rights are developed around the actual trial process. The defendant, therefore, has the right to representation, the right to confront a witness in court, the right to a speedy trial and the right to a public jury trial. These amendments ensure that the criminal trial process is maintained within the legal outline and framework to avoid discrimination against the accused. Finally, the Eighth Amendment provides the right to bail and protect defendants against cruel and unnecessary punishment. This ensures the accused has access to basic amenities such as proper nutrition and health facilities.

Thus, the federal and state governments have both made great progress towards providing equal rights to victims and defendants throughout the criminal trial process. These efforts go a long way in streamlining the criminal justice system particularly in terms of adherence to the principles of fairness and transparency. Meanwhile, greater efforts aimed at enhancing these protections even further should continue being pursued at both federal and state levels.

References

Fletcher, G. (1996). With justice for some: Protecting victims’ rights in criminal trials. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishers

Nagel, S. (1972). The rights of the accused in law and action. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

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