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Should criminal cases always go to full trial?





jeffryjon
Someone's accused of a crime and chooses to plead guilty. Should the case go to full trial?
Peterssidan
I think so. Everyone has right to a fair trail. Even if someone admit they did it doesn't mean they did it. It still has to be proved that they did it.
Bikerman
jeffryjon wrote:
Someone's accused of a crime and chooses to plead guilty. Should the case go to full trial?
I would say it depends on the nature and severity of the crime (as indeed it presently does). For minor offenses there would seem to be little point having a full jury trial with all the expenses involved. Such trials can be dealt with, as they are now, by a magistrate who hears the facts, hears the guilty plea and sets the sentence.
For more serious crimes then yes, a full trial is needed. Justice must be done and seen to be done. Those affected by serious crime have a right to see the perpetrator in court and hear the facts of the case, in my opinion. We must also consider that the guilty plea may have been made either under duress or whilst the defendant is in an abnormal state of mind - not as uncommon as many people think.
Interestingly enough I have just been listening to Carl Sagan's 'Demon Haunted World' again (it bears another listen periodically to remind oneself just how mad humans can be). He describes a case of 'hidden memory syndrome' where a father is shocked by allegations from his daughter that he ritually and satanically abused her as a child. He is deeply religious and his Pastor convinces him to seek help and confess his sins. He visits a psychologist and is hypnotised. He remembers his crimes and subsequently pleads guilty. He is sentenced to 20 years. Whilst in prison he realises that the 'memories' he has have now faded and no longer seem real, so he appeals...unfortunately he was turned down (this is 20 or more years ago so I don't know how it turned out in the end).

There are many similar cases where memories are planted by quacks calling themselves psychologists or hypnotherapists - it has since been well documented in the literature. At one point there was something close to mass hysteria about satanic abuse, both here and in the US, with claims that it was widespread, children were being bred for sacrifice and that those who did not see it were probably either stupid or complicit.....

That's another reason why we need a full trial, guilty plea or not.
jeffryjon
Have to agree with you completely there Chris. False/distorted memories can create all sorts of problems.
deanhills
jeffryjon wrote:
Someone's accused of a crime and chooses to plead guilty. Should the case go to full trial?
If someone pleads guilty, does that mean that they are really guilty? They may not be able to stand a trial, or have lost hope, and want the trial to end as soon as possible, or coerced ..... many reasons. How can one be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that this person is really guilty? I do think the the case should be interrupted at that point for a proper investigation of the person's guilty plea and a report back to the judge? And if there is sufficient evidence in front of the judge that the guilty plea is bona fide, then the case should conclude at that point. Not go to trial.
jeffryjon
deanhills wrote:
jeffryjon wrote:
Someone's accused of a crime and chooses to plead guilty. Should the case go to full trial?
If someone pleads guilty, does that mean that they are really guilty? They may not be able to stand a trial, or have lost hope, and want the trial to end as soon as possible, or coerced ..... many reasons. How can one be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that this person is really guilty? I do think the the case should be interrupted at that point for a proper investigation of the person's guilty plea and a report back to the judge? And if there is sufficient evidence in front of the judge that the guilty plea is bona fide, then the case should conclude at that point. Not go to trial.


In such cases, would the judge be more reliable than a full trial in determining the probability of guilt? Even a full trial can reach an incorrect verdict, and if the crime was genuinely committed then the real offender goes without punishment, free to continue committing crimes. If a judge gets to decide whether the guilty plea is valid,, does that increase the potential for the guilty party to remain free and investigation required to find the real guilty coming to a halt?
deanhills
jeffryjon wrote:
In such cases, would the judge be more reliable than a full trial in determining the probability of guilt? Even a full trial can reach an incorrect verdict, and if the crime was genuinely committed then the real offender goes without punishment, free to continue committing crimes. If a judge gets to decide whether the guilty plea is valid,, does that increase the potential for the guilty party to remain free and investigation required to find the real guilty coming to a halt?
Agreed that the judge would not be more reliable, but then I suggested that he does that in advisement with experts, such as those investigating the case and perhaps a psychological evaluation if it warranted it. And even then I do agree that he may not be able to arrive at a perfect fool-proof decision, or he may. Justice is not always perfect, but then hopefully there is a motivation for trying to balance the two sides of the justice scale. For example like in child custody cases. The judge would need to have some reports from child care experts, in order to come to his decision, and his decision may not always be the perfect one.
Afaceinthematrix
Most serious crimes should go to trial - even if the criminal admits to it. You never know what the stress of getting questioned intensely by the police can do to you. People may admit to doing things they didn't which is both injustice and prevents the true criminal from serving justice.

However, not all trials should. Cases that can easily be proven without a trial should not waste court resources. Even if the crime was grand theft auto or some other felony, sometimes it can just be proven. There's a television show here called "Bait Car" in which police officers will plant a "bait car" on some shady street that has a lot of car theft and then both leave the door unlocked and the keys in the car. The car is planted with microphones recording the conversations and with cameras watching every move. People get in and steal it and then after they drive for a couple of blocks, the car is remotely shut off, the doors are locked, and police come in (they know where it is from GPS tracking).

There isn't a question that these people are guilty because often their conversations are things like, "I can't believe someone didn't even lock their car. They just left the keys in here so that we could come in and take it. Etc."

Furthermore, if I am at work and I see someone stealing $600 (a felony is stealing $599+ - under is a misdemeanor) worth of tools (I sell tools for my job) and it's clearly on camera, then it shouldn't have to go to trial (but it will). Even though it was clearly seen on camera and there really isn't a question that they are stealing, it will take weeks of court time to get it situated.
Bikerman
Well, here in the UK most minor offenses are dealt with by a magistrate sitting without a jury. The defendant can opt for a jury trial and some do, hoping that the delay and cost will result in the case being dropped. The downside of that gamble is that the penalty at Crown court will almost always be higher than they would have received from a magistrate.
Afaceinthematrix
Bikerman wrote:
Well, here in the UK most minor offenses are dealt with by a magistrate sitting without a jury. The defendant can opt for a jury trial and some do, hoping that the delay and cost will result in the case being dropped. The downside of that gamble is that the penalty at Crown court will almost always be higher than they would have received from a magistrate.


See, in my opinion they shouldn't be able to opt for a jury if the case is already proven (if it's on camera). But that will never fly because our constitution here says that everyone has the right to a fair trial. Don't get me wrong, I think that, for the most part, things like this that are given to us in the U.S. by our constitution are great, but some situations, like stealing and having it caught on camera, shouldn't merit a trial.

I actually like what we do at my job. If you get caught stealing, we'll offer to let you pay us 5 times the amount of what you attempted to steal and then we will not press charges. Of course you do not have to pay, but we'll call the police. This is beneficial to everyone. It's beneficial to society because they do not have to pay for the legal process and jail time. It's beneficial for the criminal because it keeps their record clean (just try getting a job with stealing on your record). It's beneficial to the store because it pays for our security costs (including paying for us to have security guards that decrease shrinkage). And then, of course, it gives the criminal another way out.

Of course I doubt something like that would work in the youtube video "Bait Car." Just try paying 5x the amount of an escalade...
Bikerman
The problem with that is that you are judging in advance. Who is to say what evidence is so overwhelming that a trial is un-necessary? With what authority can they do that? How do you ensure that the process is not perverted? It seems to me that any such body would in fact be usurping the role of the trial itself...
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