Here is the original question that was asked by the instructor.
***Assume you are on a committee that will limit the information that may be presented at trial regarding the defendant’s past, and the impact of the victim’s injuries/death.Propose 2 rules to guide the courts in this matter; 1 dealing with the defendant and 1 dealing with the victim. Provide the scriptural and scholarly basis for each.
This was response from students in regards to instructor's question. (Remember, you will have to pick 2 out of 4 from the student's response and reply to them by voicing your own personal opinion on what they wrote regarding the professor's question from earlier.
***Please pick 2 out of the 4 student's response. Please see below for student's response.***
#1 Proposal for the Defendant:
In most crimes, the courts will look deeply into the defendants past and will become consumed with previous cases, instead of focusing on the facts of the case at hand (Anderson, 1981). I would limit the amount of information of the defendant’s past. I would focus mainly on the crime committed by the defendant, and the defendant’s past crimes that are in the same category of the crime committed (Anderson, 1981). This will help to reduce prejudgment that the judge or juries may have from previous cases and increase a fair and speedy trial (Anderson, 1981).
Proposal for the Victim:
Victims are a big part of criminal cases but they can also bring unnecessary drama to the court room (Neubauer & Fradella, 2011). This kind of drama can create an irrational sentencing to the defendant by the jury or the judges because of sympathy for the victim (Neubauer & Fradella, 2011). I would limit the victims’ courtroom appearance, but I would allow the victim to submit evidence such as personal statements of the effects and after effects of the crime.
On the defendant, I would allow a total rap sheet including their criminal history. I would allow this because this would help in deciding the character of the defendant. I would not allow his or her family to testify, because they would probably just testify to how bad a life the defendant has had, how life dealt him or her a bad hand. This would only cause emotional confusion. However, I would allow non-related character witnesses for the defendant.
For the victim, I would also allow a total rap sheet including their criminal history. You never know whether the defendant was protecting himself or herself with self defense. I would not allow the family to testify for the victim either because they might testify to how good of a life that the victim had and how he or she had everything going for them and now they are dead. This would just cause emotional confusion also. However, I would also allow non-related character witnesses for the victim. This would help to decide what kind of character the victim was.
#3...For the defendant I would allow their criminal history including a complete rap sheet on them. I would allow this for several reasons. The main reason is that it is a true indicator of what type of character the defendant is. I do not want to hear about how sad of a life they had. I definitely do not want to hear the defendant’s response to how horrible their life has been. I want to look at their complete criminal history to see what they have or have not done with their life. Knowing their criminal history could also help the defendant, if it was a short rap sheet. I would allow character witnesses for the defendant only because I would allow the victim to have character witnesses speak about them.
For the victim I have to agree with the textbook, “at times members of the courtroom work group perceives that the victim’s demands for public justice actually mask a desire for private vengeance”(Neubauer & Fradella, 2011) because of this reason, I would not allow the victims family to testify. The textbook also mentions that most people are not used to testifying and that along with their already troubled state over losing a loved one could actually discredit the victim(Neubauer & Fradella, 2011). I would also allow a complete criminal history of the victim. We do not know the circumstance; the victim might have had a long history of violence. Maybe the defendant killed them in self defense. In order for the criminal justice system to work the way it was designed to work, we need to get both sides of the story. “Innocent until proven guilty.” We cannot forget that last phrase and we cannot jump to a conclusion about either parties. We should not judge them till we get all the facts. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”(Matthew 7:1, New International Version)
The reason I would allow character witnesses, not related to either parties, to testify is because I think it is important to know what the relationship was between the two parties from as unbiased as possible point of view.(Neubauer & Fradella, 2011) I also think it would be beneficial to both parties in helping the court decide the verdict for the defendant.
#4 Proposal for defendant:
An important factor in determining the credibility of a defendant is his/her history. Therefore mentioning past criminal convictions would be appropriate. I think this is important because someone who has multiple past convictions is considered a career criminal, thus making a valid point for the prosecution (Neubauer & Fradella, 2011). I would also allow the use of his personal beliefs, in some cases, such as his religious beliefs, personal friends, and occupation. These are things that would help or hurt a case. For example, does the defendant practice Islam and believes that everyone who is not a Muslim should dies? Does he hang out with other known offenders? Does he have an occupation that would give him access to material or equipment relevant to the crime? The state of mind is also relevant in determining the defendant’s guilt or innocence. The boundary that I would place would be on family. Involving family in a way to discredit the family, assuming they arte not involved, is not proper or relevant in determining the defendants innocence or guilt. The Bible acknowledges the fact that a person’s lifestyle can show a person’s intentions. Proverbs states, “The righteous man leads a blameless life…” (Proverbs 20:7, NIV).
Proposal for victim:
Although personal comments from the victim’s family members can be introduced during a trial to grow sympathy for the victim, I do not agree with it (Neubauer & Fradella, 2011). If the family’s story is relevant to the incident then I think it should be allowed. For example, if the victim had children and a wife that he can no longer support. Using probabilities like, “he could have been president” or “he could have gotten married and had a family” are probabilities and should not be allowed. I also believe the victim’s birth, relationship, or personal history should be allowed (Worrall, 2012). This is important because the defendant is innocent until proven guilty by the prosecution (Neubauer & Fradella, 2011). Furthermore, the use of slander on either side should absolutely not be used. Either against the victim or the defendant and any witness who testifies. Scripture states, “The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18, ESV).