Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys have unique roles to play in ensuring that a case is handled properly and a fair outcome of a trial is realized. A judge presides over the proceedings and commands order in the courtroom. Before the jury begins, the judge determines the legality of the evidence to be used in the prosecution by the different parties and deliberates with the jury on the facts of the case, gives directives about the law that relates to the case and the principals for use in its determination. Also, a judge determines the credibility of the evidence tabled, gives an impartial assessment of facts, decides the case, and sentences the convicted criminals or enforce penalties. In some situations, a judge determines the validity of a claim and estimate the damages, grants an injunction or commands any form of redress on the defendant.
Prosecutors, too, have their roles in the administration of justice. In the United States, for instance, they subpoena and question a witness as well as advising the judges on sentences (Worrall & Nugent-Borakove, 2014). They also have a legal responsibility of sharing evidence with the defense attorneys that inclines to the innocence of a defendant. This duty stamps the role of a prosecutor as a justice seeker, not solely to convict. Kelly (2015) notes that the traditional function of a prosecutor is the representation of the interest of the state in the adjudication and the sentencing of offenders. The prosecutor has a hand in almost all decisions made in the legal process of every case brought to the criminal court. Also, a prosecutor participates in an investigattion by providing advisory assistance to the police, availing the required evidence for a conviction, and polishing the investigators with access to tools such as warrants for electronic surveillance or searches.
Defense attorney, on the other hand, performs a critical function of ensuring that the prosecution proves its case in court or has sufficient evidence of guilt before a plea is entered. Cole, Smith and DeJong (2015) note that a defense attorney advises the defendant during questioning, represents him at any hearing, protects the constitutional rights at every stage of the criminal justice, and ensures the defendant receives a fair trial. Slater, Kara and Finck (2011) posit that defense attorney evaluates the case presented by the prosecutor by reviewing the evidence, conducting an investigation of the allegations, and creates a defense.
While the judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys have specialized roles to carry out in the courtroom, some shared goals serve as a motivation to maintain a cooperative courtroom workgroup and impact on the outcome of cases. For instance, after a preliminary hearing, defense attorney and prosecutor can decide to submit the case on record. If this happens, a judge determines the defendants innocence or guilt after reviewing the preliminary hearing transcript. Also, there exists a typical negotiation between the defense counsel and the prosecutor involving a plea in exchange for a lesser punishment for the accused. Gertz (1980) agrees that there is a likelihood of charges being dropped or a lighter sentence imposed when there is an interaction between the prosecutor, the judge, and the defense attorney. A prosecutor can recommend the release of a defendant on his recognizance to the judge with electronic monitoring at home in concurrence with the recommendation of the defense attorney.
Outside the courtroom, the interaction between the judge, defense attorney and the prosecutor continues. This interaction is allowed anytime during an ongoing criminal case and takes the form of plea bargaining. These negotiations minimize jury trials (Barkan & Bryjak, 2013). They can also agree on no prosecution, dropping or addition of charges, and evidence. These negotiations can be settled in one session, while others can be deliberated on several times depending on the experience of the defense attorneys in making deals with the prosecutors. The defense attorney ought to reach a settlement immediately or continue assessing the plea bargain offer from the prosecutor and negotiating its terms.
Barkan, S. E., & Bryjak, G. J. (2013). Myths and Realities of Crime and Justice. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Cole, G. F., Smith, C. E., & DeJong, C. (2015). The American system of criminal justice. Nelson Education.
Gertz, M. G. (1980). The impact of prosecutor/public defender interaction on sentencing: An exploratory typology. Criminal Justice Review, 5, 43-54.
Kelly, W. R. (2015). Criminal justice at the crossroads: Transforming crime and punishment. Columbia University Press.
Slater, L. K., & Finck, K. R. (2011). Social work practice and the law. Springer Publishing Company.
Worrall, J., & Nugent-Borakove, M. E. (Eds.). (2014). Changing Role of the American Prosecutor, The. Suny Press.
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