1. What are the leading reasons why some defendants are wrongfully convicted? What methods might be used to avoid wrongful convictions and exonerate those who have been wrongfully convicted? Research to find a case of a wrongful conviction and share it with the class.
2. What will future courtrooms be like? How will they differ from today’s courtrooms, and how will they be the same? What are some of the new and pressing issues affecting American courts today?
3. A witness can completely screw up a testimony and end up convicting an innocent person for a number of reasons. It is the hope of the people, I would think, that the other court room participants would eventually find the falsehood and rat out the person who lied, however, we all know that this is not always the case. Sometimes testimonies can be accidentally skewed. I say this because there are some people who might get nervous up on the stand, forget what exactly they saw, or become fearful of being part of the reason an innocent person might go to prison. They would not want to live with that guilty conscious. Class, what are some other ways that a witness testimony might change the course of a court case?
4. There are a great many reasons why a person might be wrongfully convicted, not the least of which is the usage of plea bargains to expedite a case. The lack of attention to due process in the face of simple crime control can cause this tragedy to happen to any innocent person. By paying close attention to our due process regiments and by properly gathering and handling evidence and facts for a case we can avoid a wrongful conviction. This mishandling is a large part of the reason why so many are exonerated after years in incarceration or even after their death sentence has already been carried out. Take for example the case of Kristine Bunch, who was wrongfully convicted of arson and the accidental death of her son, only for the truth to later come out that she did not start the fire. Class, what other ways might we avoid wrongful convictions?
5. We have already started to see the implementation of some of the technological advances in the courtroom. Our courts now allow some parties/witnesses (in civil cases) to appear electronically (telephonically or video call); and in criminal cases, some pretrial hearings, arraignments, etc. get done that way or by closed circuit television – allowing the defendant to appear via video from the jail, rather than bringing the defendant to the courtroom.
As a trial attorney, I am a little concerned about the use of too much electronic video/audio presentation of witness testimony at trial. I think that it is important to be able to look into the eyes of the witness, and observe their behavior, to assist in determining the comfort level of what they are testifying about, and to assist in determining the credibility / reliability of the testimony. What do you all think?
6. Honestly, I would like to say that future courtrooms would be more discerning in whom they convict and why. That they would have better methods for obtaining the truth of a case from the people. But the truth is that, more than likely, the courts will soon become even more overrun than ever with those who have, or supposedly have, committed crimes for which they must answer. To this effect, I believe that, in the future, there will be even more diversity of the courts. For now, there is federal, criminal, and civil claims courts, but in the future there may be even more branches than that just to help handle the caseload. This will, of course, be a double edged sword in that it will create more job opportunities for many people wishing to go into this field of work. However, it could also up the possibility for wrongful convictions and the mistreatment of due process. Class, what are your thoughts?
7. Defense must work harder to disprove what the prosecution sets forth as far as witnesses and evidence. Now, in the court system (as we learned last week), the defense does have the right to acquire the evidence and hear the testimonies of the witnesses before they are presented in court so that they may prepare their defense. In your opinion, do you believe that this is a good or a bad thing? Should they be allowed to have this information? Consider the pros and cons for both an innocent and a guilty defendant.
8. There is an old saying in the investigative work and that is follow the money. I have sat in on cases and hearings and often wondered exactly how far does the illegal money reach. Is it possible for judges or prosecutors to quietly accept bribes? How is that proven? I know defense attorneys are money based. I have seen one sub par lawyer walk in and tell his client unless he pays more money he will sit in jail. Then I seen the same defendant come back with another lawyer and walk with probation on his second burglary charge. How far can the money really reach?