Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More on Jury Trial Demands - USSC, "vast potential to disrupt" courts

This story was posted as a comment to my previous post about demanding a jury trial.

My first posting about demanding a jury trial may be viewed here.

While at a meeting that evening I had a discussion about the supposed statutes criminalizing non compliance with child support payment orders. I raised the issue of if you have two of the 25 defendants scheduled for a jury trial that week actually follow through with their jury demand who do think goes, the guy behind on support payments or the one accused of raping a child? Thus, given the choice between prosecuting real crimes or trying to pad their pockets by skimming support payments, what do you think will happen. My counter-part responded that they will simply double the courts and prosecutors.

That would seem to be a logical approach. We don't want to set criminals loose upon society just because we don't have enough current capacity to manage them. But, that is precisely what happens. The Marion County Jail has been regularly releasing inmates for years because of overcrowding. Is Marion County building more jail cells or adding courts and prosecutors to speed the process? Not at a rate exceeding the caseload or population growth. There comes a point where society will only tolerate spending so much money on the scam known as the 'war on drugs'.

Marion County is likely more recognizable to you as Indianapolis. Like any large city they will have their problems. A problem encountered last year was that judges were considering issuing bench warrants for potential jurors that did not appear. Some trials were unable to proceed because of a lack of jurors. This was with only a very small percentage of cases being resolved through jury trial. Put aside the limited number of judges, courtrooms, prosecutors and public defenders. There still must be enough jurors.

Under Criminal Rule 4(C) the prosecution must take a defendant to trial within one year of the arrest or charging of the offense. There are certain exceptions to the time limit. Any delay attributed to the defendant will not count against the one year requirement. So, it is important for defendants to be prepared for trial and not ask for a continuance because it is unlikely that the prosecutor will be ready.

Do not be so quick to think it is only a logistics problem. It appears that the public has a limited tolerance for unbridled spending to support the fanciful extravagances of prosecutor's. Maybe it was Mike Nifong and his malicious prosecution against the Duke University lacrosse players in a fabricated rape case. Spending tens of thousands of dollars to manufacture a case before ever speaking to the alleged 'victim' did not go over well with many people. In fact, Nifong was sent to jail for the offense.

Back in Marion County in 2007 prosecutor Carl Brizzi made a big public showing of his top ten deadbeat dads. At the top of the list stood Eric D Walker. This loving and caring father was accused of severely neglecting his children. Brizzi had all his ducks in a row. He had court orders, child support payment history and the purported statute he would prosecute Walker under. What Brizzi didn't have was a jury who was going to allow the State to invade the sanctity of the family. The jury determined that Walker should be able to provide care for his children as he and the mother saw fit. Brizzi's waste of taxpayer money was monumental. The not guilty verdict of the jury sent a clear message to all criminal defendants that the citizens will only allow a limited amount of governmental tyranny.

Society is starting to see that prosecutors are not much unlike the people they seek to prosecute. There is a difference though in that prosecutors have taken an oath to abide by and uphold the law. As Nifong and others in Indiana have shown recently prosecutors can't be trusted any more than the defendants they go into battle against.

Police misconduct is being revealed more often with the use of audio/video recordings. In this incident a group of police officers manufacturers a case against a woman after the officer collided with her car. An Indianapolis officer plead guilty to having 'forced sex' [rape] in his police car, while on duty, with a woman wanted on a warrant. Apparently crime by officers is so prevalent that the Metro PD has only placed him on suspension while considering termination.

Police officers who have long abused their position of authority are now being seen for such conduct on a regular basis and demonstrates that no more weight should be given to an officers testimony than that of a criminal defendant.

Now I find out that the United States Supreme Court has given criminal defendants another due process consideration. In a 5-4 Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts decision, the high court said that lab reports served as “witnesses” for the prosecution. Justice Antonin Scalia reasoned that since the 6th Amendment gives defendants a right to "be confronted with the witnesses against him," that drug and DUI defendants among others were "entitled to be confronted with the [lab] analysts at trial." Now the prosecution must make a lab technician available to testify in person if the defendant demands it.

As a result, some cases already have been dismissed. The four dissenters readily admit to this jury demand strategy overburdening the courts. They said the ruling had "vast potential to disrupt" the criminal courts. They also said it gave "a great windfall" to defendants, some of whom could have their cases dismissed because a lab technician was not available to testify.

Clearly, criminal defendants can overwhelm the criminal courts system if they choose. If you are a criminal defendant demand a jury trial. If you are involved in any case involving an analysis report then call the reports author as a witness. If you are selected to sit on a jury demand that the case be proven and always invoke your right to veto the law if you chose.

Stuart Showalter

Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates

©2009 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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