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I Differences between the continental and Anglo Saxon legal system based on common law.
II Terms connected with trials:
1 jury (12 members)
3 defendant is a person who is being defended; the accused
5 forensic expert
6 prosecutor / council for the prosecution (UK)/ district / state attorney (US)
7 council for the defence / defence lawyer
8 a witness box (UK) / stand (US)
9 (be in) the dock
10 turn Queen’s evidence (UK) / state’s evidence (US)
II A trial – legal proceedings
A person has been accused of a crime / charged with a crime, which means a substantial body of evidence pointing to their committing that offence has been gathered by the investigating detectives. The judge enters the courtroom, everybody stands up. The judges sits down and all present in the room can become seated. The judge checks the facts about the defendant who has to be physically present in the room, after which the judge will also check whether there is a precedent for the case in question.
The council for the prosecution representing the Crown/State presents the charges against the defendant. The judge will examine the evidence and the charges and consider the seriousness of the offence and will have three options:to send the case to a lower court (magistrate court), drop the charges (dismiss the case), carry on with the legal proceedings. The judge asks the defendant whether he pleads innocent or guilty.
A cross examination of the witnesses and of the defendant will take place by the council for the prosecution and the council for the defence. Some experts may have to be brought in to give their assessment of the situation, the type of crime, e.g. forensic experts who will explain details of the cause of death/ evidence from examination of fingerprints, DNA evidence.Both councils give their concluding speeches appealing to the jury to clear the defendant of the charges levelled against them, and to uphold the charge. Most probably the defendant has the right to make a final statement protesting their innocence. At this point the judge consults the jury and instructs them how to go about
their business (establishing the defendant’s guilt or innocence). The judge sums up the case. The jury retreat to deliberate their verdict. A majority decision is required and if that does not happen they are disbanded. When the jury have reached their verdict, they come back and bring it in (a verdict of guilty or not guilty). If the verdict is ‘not guilty’ the accused is cleared of the charges, and is set free, if he is guilty the judge moves on to the sentencing which will be based on existing precedent.
The defendant or their lawyers may appeal against the verdict to a higher court / a court of appeal.
· Right to clemency
· Presidential pardon
The accused / defendant is taken to / put in the dock.
III A trial with a difference – the Black Adder comedy
The judge appeared as a witness in the case (the shooting dead of a pigeon called Speckled Jim which belonged to the witness). There was no jury because it was a court martial. The council for the defence asked the council for the prosecution to testify as a witness. Additionally, that council for the defence was a witness to the crime. Normally the defendants cannot influence the testimony of the witnesses in any way, but in this trail the accused instructed the witness to "deny everything”. Before sentencing the judge put on a black cap to indicate that a death sentence would be passed.
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