Sunday, October 23, 2011

trial process

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Criminal Entrapment is the creating of a situation by the police and encouraging an individual to commit a crime that he wouldn’t have otherwise done. Suspected Criminals often use this defense when somehow the police have been involved in the crime they have committed. However, it is imperative that in order to be released under this circumstance that one must prove that if not provoked by the police. In the example case, United States v. Russell, it is easily determined that this does not classify as entrapment. The suspect was buying supplies for manufacturing his drugs from an undercover agent. However, Russell had been producing these drugs before the undercover agent was available to do business with. Therefore, it was ruled that none of the agents’ participatory activities amounted to entrapment.

The Insanity plea is another plea that accused criminals often take. As stated in the Insanity Defense Reform Act of 184, in all federal courts a defendant must be shown to have a severe mental disease, and can’t appreciate nature or quality of wrongfulness of his acts. The Defendant has the burden of proof. However, it is different among states. Each state has its own laws ranging from the lack of substantial capacity to control one’s behavior, unable to understand the wrongfulness of the act, or in some states both. Many states are more lenient than others as shown in the Case of Judge Kowtna in New York. He was able to make a plea of insanity and serve a short time in a hospital even though he had shown no evidence of mental incapability in the future. However, Andrea Yates in Texas, who had a history of mental illness, was not granted the plea of insanity. Many people think that this has more to do with money and political power than the overall opinions and doings of the states. A person with money and political power has the capabilities to afford better, or more useful, doctors and has friends in high places that can help them out in a bind. This truly does seem to be the case. How else could an judge in New York be released on insanity when so many poorer individuals he himself has sent to jail refusing the insanity plea.

A third defense is the necessity defense. An example of this is the medical necessity of marijuana and the legality of raising it. Raising marijuana in the United States is seen as illegal in the eyes of the federal government. However, nine states, including California, have laws within themselves legalizing the growing of marijuana for medical purposes. In the case against Ed Rosenthal, he is charged in federal court for the illegal growing and selling of marijuana although in his home state of California it is legal for medical purposes. He was sentenced to one day in jail because the judge credited him with time already served and believed that the defendant really did not think that what he was doing was illegal. The judge warned that this case will now serve as a notice that a state or municipality cannot legally authorize medical marijuana. Although this practice is legalized in some states, it is illegal in the United States and anyone who grows marijuana will be prosecuted.

It is known that defendants have the right to call available witnesses of their choosing. However, with the recent terrorist happenings, it is debated whether or not exceptions can be made. An example of this is seen in the Moussaoui case. Moussaoui is an admitted member of Al-Quaeda. However, he denies having any involvement in the attacks that happened September 11, 001. He feels that he should have access to Binalshibh, an Al-Quaeda leader who he feels will be able to prove his innocence. Assistant U.S. Attorney General Michael Chertoff argues that it creates too high of a national security risk allowing someone like Binalshibh be accessible in trial. However, the defense says that by blocking access to Binalshibh, Moussaoui would be denied a fair trial. Binalshibh and other Al-Quaeda members are the only people capable of proving that Moussaoui was not involved in the September 11th attacks. The Justice department feels that allowing this access would perhaps allow the disclosure of classified information. “The courts have not yet ruled on the merits of the issue -- access to an alien seized abroad as an enemy combatant in the midst of war.”

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In the U.S. Supreme court case Wiggins v. Smith, the Supreme court ruled that inexperienced lawyers failed their client at trial. The Supreme Court noted that the Constitution guarantees the right to an effective lawyer. At the sentencing phase, defense attorneys main purpose is to try to save the life of their client. With the background of Mr. Wiggins being so horrendous, he would have most probably been given life in prison instead of the death penalty. However, his attorneys failed to inform the jury of his background thereby leaving the jury no reason not to give the death penalty. The judge, however, declared that the lawyers’ performance was not unconstitutionally poor, that they had just understandably focused their efforts on other aspects of the case. Mr. Wiggins conviction stands, but he has been granted a new sentencing hearing.

Quitman County, Mississippi is now in the process of suing the state because it says it cannot afford to provide defendants with anything more than assembly-line justice. The county is claiming that they have the responsibility to represent the poor, yet the state does not supply them with enough funds to make this possible. In fact, the state provides them with no funds for the defense of the indigent in no capital cases compared to other states that pay for much if not all of the expenses of their cases. Because of this, many counties across the U.S. are stuck using funding from their own taxes to pay for the cases and necessities of cases. This barely pays for the initial visit with the client let alone the paperwork and other expenses of the case. There are many other states in the mid-west and the deep south that also have this problem with funding. Many lawyer’s that do work as public defenders receive pay as low as $1,50 a month. Because of this, many lawyers are forced to hold bulk meetings with many clients and urge them to take plea bargains that defendants with personal lawyers might not be urged to take. Therefore, this lack of funds make it barely possible to call the representative that clients receive in places like Quitman County “legal work”. This Quitman County case is the first in which the plaintiff is the government itself. However, it is thought that with the poor funding of many other states, there will be more to follow. This would be the only adequate way to make representation for the poor possible.

Ohio also has a problem with funding. In one of its counties, Vinton County, a judge recently denied a death penalty case due to the lack of funding in the county. Paying for this trial would deplete most of the general funds budget of this small county. In addition, this funding problem would account for the defendant, Gregory McKnight, to not receive due process of the law. The judge states that a risk like this is unacceptable in a case of the magnitude. The state has offered financial support that would release the financial burden of the prosecution, but it is not capable for doing the same for the defense. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer stated that this shows a particular defect in the system. It is also noted that it is not unusual for a prosecution to agree to a life sentence instead of the death penalty because of lack of funding for adequate council.

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