The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a cornerstone of criminal law in the United States. When a jury of peers will decide a case’s outcome, these peers on the jury come to the court with their own personal histories, experiences, beliefs and prejudices. These personal perspectives affect how jurors vote regarding guilt or innocence of the defendant.
Americans tend to view sex crimes as one of the worst types of crime. Because of this viewpoint, it can be difficult to find jurors who do not automatically side with the victim based upon testimony, the crimes themselves and the emotions they evoke. To ensure jurors are not biased against the defendant, it is important for the criminal defense lawyer to ask the proper questions of them before any evidence is presented. Objections, errors and evidence must be considered fully in these cases, in addition to the full range of punishment.
Child sex crimes are particularly distressing to most people and involve grave circumstances, just as allegations against someone for these crimes – whether or not they are proven accurate – can provide life-changing consequences. Jurors tend to believe witnesses and victims more readily than defendants who assert their innocence. This makes these cases easier for prosecutors to convict, particularly when the child victim testifies in front of the jury or a judge. These cases are very difficult to defend and require a great deal of experience in criminal defense on the part of the defendant’s lawyer. There are many complications in defending someone against such charges, because jurists are often predisposed to bias toward anyone accused of child sex crimes.
The voir dire process is the time in which defense lawyers work to exclude as many biased jurists as possible. This process affords lawyers the opportunity to ask jurors questions that may uncover their bias. But prejudiced jurors may easily pass through these processes by concealing bias, often so they can ensure conviction. These types of jurists often have only one objective in being part of the trial, that being to help deliver a conviction and harsh sentence for anyone they think may be guilty of sex crimes against children.
Willingness to deliberate upon guilt or innocence of the defendant is a quality both prosecutors and defense lawyers seek in jurists. This is the right of both sides of the case, to have these people in the jury. Fair jury members must also deliberate upon totality of punishment available for charges against the defendant, including minimum sentencing, maximum penalties and everything in between the two.
To consider punishment, members of the jury panel must consider the circumstances of the case and fairness of imposed penalties. They must be able to differentiate between circumstances calling for harsher punishment and those calling for a lesser degree of penalty. Defendants may be penalized through years in jail, decades in prison or even life imprisonment. They can also be fined as an alternative or in addition to other punishments. Probation may be an option for some cases and may be considered if the defendant deserves a lesser punishment.
During the jury selection process, both prosecution and defense counsel use qualifying questions to draw out individual jurists’ demonstration of bias or inability to fully consider sentencing possibilities. The goal of jury selection is to ensure these individuals do not make it onto a final jury, so they are removed as they demonstrate these issues.
It is very important that an experienced defense attorney is involved in this process to avoid the defendant being too heavily penalized or even convicted of a crime he or she did not commit. In a sex crime case, it is particularly important to ensure there is no jury bias, as human instinct makes most people want to jump to conclusions and harshly punish those who commit such crimes. Because the penalties for sex crimes are so stringent, fairness is critical.
Lawyers work to weed out jurists who may skew toward one side of the case or the other. These attorneys have to be able to see through potential jurors’ answers to ensure they are being honestly representative of their feelings and are not concealing deeper motives.
When errors are made in a sex crime case, the defense may be able to file an appeal. Juror bias is one reason why such appeals are granted, especially in sex crime cases involving children. Errors in a case may occur due to confusion, hidden agendas or honest mistakes. When an appeal is granted, a new case is conducted using the same witnesses. Some of these appeals result in reversal of sentences.
Defense attorneys are not above making mistakes, themselves. When a defense attorney makes a mistake during a trial, an appeal based on those mistakes can lead to a new trial with a new defense attorney. The change in counsel can provide the defendant a new way to proceed in their trial, with a fresh perspective by a new legal team. The charges will remain the same. But the new set of eyes on the case can provide a pathway to successfully overcoming the charges where the original legal team failed.
There may be specific language used in a trial that a second legal team can see affected the case negatively. By adjusting the approach, huge differences can be made.
If juror bias is a reason for a hefty sentencing, it is important to identify individuals with such bias and remove them from the jury before the trial starts.
When you are facing charges for sex crimes, your entire life hangs in the balance. It is critical that you gain the help of a highly experienced, aggressive and best criminal defense attorney. Without such defense, you may find yourself falsely convicted due to the nature of the crimes, provided a harsher sentence than you deserve, or otherwise penalized in ways that are not balanced according to the crime. For a fair trial and elimination of possibly biased jurors, do not underestimate the need for a highly trained and successful criminal defense lawyer.
If you are facing sex crime charges in Arizona, immediately call DM Cantor now at 602.307.0808 for an initial consultation and recommendations regarding your case.
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