Crime, Verdict & Sentence (1 Viewer)

KitaYama

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I’m obsessed with crime documentaries. And America as a country with one of the highest rate of crimes, has always been a good seed for these documentaries.
More than %99 percent of what you find in Netflix, Amazon, YouTube ,… is about some crime in US.

I’ve always had a question but never had a chance to ask. Today, I have a little time on my hand and thought someone may have the answer.

Where I live (or I think any other country) there’s a specific sentence for any crime.
The jury gives a guilty/not guilty verdict and the judge passes the sentence.
”12 Angry man” movie is a good example. Before the jury leave the court, they’re told it’s a capital crime and if they find the accused guilty, it’s death penalty.
I mean the jury decide guilty or not, but the sentence is decided. It’s written in the law book.

In most documentaries I watch, it’s true. The moment the jury says guilty, the judge has a short speech and then gives the sentence.
In some cases it’s not the same. The most recent one I watched in Law & Crime, was FSU Law Professor murder. He was murdered in 2014, both perpetrators were arrested in 2016 and were sentenced to 19 years and life, 2017 someone who asked them to murder the victim was found and sentenced to life. In 2023, another one who has planned the whole thing was arrested and the jury came out with a guilty sentence.
To my surprise, the judge didn’t gave the sentence. He postpone it to a month later, (2023/12/12 2:00 PM)

Now my question:
Why in some rare cases the judge doesn’t give the sentence immediately? It’s obvious the sentence is Life, but why postponing it to a month later? The judge knows the crime, (it’s a 10 years old crime), and for sure knows the law. He had time to search the law book during the whole 7 days of trial, check if there are any point to cut the sentence to several years or give the maximum. I believe even before the trial starts, the judge reads the file, researches that specific crime and the accused. He’s not only sitting there to keep the trial in order.
What’s he waiting for? Why he needs a month for giving the sentence?
 
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One more question if you don’t mind. I’ve never seen it, but what happens after a hung jury?
Retrial? Or the judge decides?
 
First, you must remember that the name of our country is the "United States of America." This name has a practical component in that we have laws at the federal (national) level, laws at the state level (that can differ from state to state), and laws at lesser levels - counties and municipalities. So the answers to your questions must include that the united states don't agree on everything. The states can and often do take a different viewpoint on various crimes. Sometimes the 50 states ARE united. Sometimes, not so much.

Most states have a specific RANGE of sentences possible for a specific crime because we take into account extenuating or aggravating circumstances. So if there is some evidence that a person was unusually brutal in some action, the sentence can be tougher. Thus the judge can be lenient, average, or harsh based on specifics of the case. A common aggravating circumstance would be a racially-based crime, which is taken to mean that you are tried for the crime but if a hate-based motive is revealed during trial, your sentence gets enhanced. There is also such a thing as a "victim impact statement" which allows the victim of the crime to advise the judge of specific damage done to that person (or family) as advice for just how harshly to treat the person just convicted.

Then there is the fact that juries don't get just a single charge. In my home state of Louisiana, we have a responsive verdict option. In a particular trial for which I was on the jury, we could have returned any of three different r.a.p.e. charges - simple, forcible, or aggravated - or not guilty. We were told the exact wording of the law that defined each of the three levels. We debated it for about half an hour and decided that "aggravated" was not condoned by the case that was presented, but "forcible" was appropriate. (The distinction was whether the force turned into actual physical violence or remained only as a threat.) The guy was put away for a while anyway because we gave him the maximum on three other charges. We just didn't think the District Attorney had proved "aggravated" r.a.p.e.

There are times when judges make immediate verdicts, but sometimes (unless the crime is one of extreme violence), the person will have a chance to put his/her affairs in order since they are going to be away for a while. There is also the possibility of an appeal on technical, substantive, or procedural grounds. It is always a matter of whether the officers of the court think the person is a physically dangerous person who cannot be allowed to be in society even for the short time between verdict and sentencing. Particularly if the judge allows exploration of extenuating or aggravating circumstances, verdicts will be delayed for judges to analyze these circumstances.

You also asked about hung juries. Most judges will try to persuade the jury to continue to deliberate. However, the jury can return a response to the court saying that they are hopelessly deadlocked. At this point, the judge can declare a mistrial. This is simultaneously the worst result and the best result because it is indicative of a razor's edge of difference between the sides. The bad part is (a) taxpayers had to pay for the trial (at least, the judge and district attorney and court stenographer etc.) and (b) because the case did not reach a verdict, jeopardy did not attach to the case, which means that the defendant CAN be tried again. Normally, if a jury reaches a verdict, the case CANNOT be tried again because of what we call "Double Jeopardy" - can't be tried twice for the same exact crime and situation. But a case with a hung jury can be re-tried. When the jury is hung, it is up to the District Attorney's office to decide whether to re-try the case or try to entice a plea to lesser charges or drop the case.

Picking a jury is always a "crap shoot" because you never know what will happen. It is possible that you can get 12 people in any state of mind, and there is no guarantee that they CAN be open-minded to your attorney's arguments. So if you thought you had a good jury but they "hung" then the next time, that jury CANNOT be empaneled for your case (would violate "previous knowledge" rule) and the jury you get might have had a bad week, so bad as to be as grumpy as a dyspeptic porcupine.

I was in a jury pool once where it was a light day, not many trials starting, and my number got picked. The Clerk of Court is usually responsible for jury pools and there can be some odd results if you can't seat a large enough jury pool. The DA might be willing to postpone or plead out the case. But for this case, the bailiff brought in 30 people for the Voix Dire pool (which was full size for a pool "draw") and the judge started his usual instructions. But it was approaching lunchtime, so we were released to find lunch and return to that courtroom, fully expecting the usual questions for pool screening. When we came back, though, we were told that we were released back to the general pool because the defendant realized that his case would have a full jury. Apparently he was hoping to take advantage of a "thin pool" - but he got something else.

One last comment: With regard to Reginald Rose's "12 Angry Men", which you mentioned - I actually was juror #10 (the bigot with a summer cold) in my high school's speech department presentation of that play. In the original play, the 12 men are first seen AFTER the judge has read them their instructions. You don't know exactly what he told them about sentencing, though they discuss it in a vague manner. The movie versions might have enhanced the dialog regarding that point. But it doesn't matter. Juror #8 (a businessman) was the person who doubted enough to explore what was said during trial. He persuaded "the old man" (I forget his number) and then persuaded "the banker." One by one, the others experienced doubt. Eventually, the two bigots were the last hold-outs and they folded, one by one. "Not guilty" and they all went home.

Hope that helps you, KitaYama.
 
Hope that helps you, KitaYama.
Absolutely it did. Very informative.
Thanks.
It’s interesting to see you’ve been a juror once. If someday I receive that letter, I think I will deny. I’m too emotional and there’s a good chance that my vote would be biased.

In case of 12 angry men, it’s a shame that Hollywood doesn’t make great movies like that, anymore. Nowadays the only thing they are interested is to follow China’s request to make money. The quality of their movie doesn’t mean anything anymore. I‘m sure you know it too. I stopped watching movies a long time ago. Hollywood cannot satisfy me anymore. And our local productions sucks.

Thanks again for taking your time and explain it in details. Now I can go and watch “Take care of Maya”
 
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I enjoy watching YouTube videos where some guy drives through the roughest most dangerous hoods in America. It always holds some strange fascination for me. It was similar in the UK. Sometimes I would drive through them just to see what was going on!
 
It’s interesting to see you’ve been a juror once. If someday I receive that letter, I think I will deny.

I've received that letter four times. In my home jurisdiction, you cannot deny without medical or legal reasons. You CAN ask to be moved to a different pool, which I've done twice. But the odds are quite high that you will not be picked every time. Of the four times my name came up for the pool, I served twice. Once the criminal trial I mentioned, where we convicted the guy on four charges. Once was a civil trial involving a back injury caused by negligence, because in our area, both civil and criminal cases are tried by the same judges, so they get jurors from the same pool. We awarded partial damages because the plaintiff was partly at fault for being stupid and doing something she should not have done. The case I mentioned when we were picked but then released after lunch was the third time around. And one time, my number never came up for any Voix Dire pool because there were few cases and a large general pool, so very few of us got picked that day. I've also gotten the "standby" letter that gets sent out when they send the "you have been selected" letter but not everyone can go. All three times I was on standby, I was excused. (They give you a phone number to call 24 hours before the "report for duty" date.)

I had the option, once I turned 70, to ask for my name to be withdrawn from the pool. In fairness to others, I did that because these days, if I sit still for too long, I doze off. That is not fair to the defendant and not fair to the plaintiff or the people, so I decided I'm not right for juries any more. No attention span.
 
More than %99 percent of what you find in Netflix, Amazon, YouTube ,… is about some crime in US.
That's because "if it bleeds, it leads" which is the old newspaper motto. You'd think that the US is the least safe country in the world if you believed everything you saw on TV. Colin thinks we all walk around with guns on our hips. There are some really bad neighborhoods that have a lot of crime like pretty much all of San Francisco these days and the south side of Chicago but most cities are safe enough.

I was on the jury for a criminal trial once also. After the first hour of testimony, I was ready to convict the "victim" and the prosecutor for bringing this stupid case and wasting taxpayer money. It wasn't until the third day that we got to vote. They released us just before lunch so we decided to let the state pay for lunch. We gave our verdict when we finished eating. Turns out to have been a drug deal gone bad but the accused had a broken leg and it was in a full leg cast and he was walking with crutches as the victim gave his testimony describing how the accused stole his money ($30) and then jumped over two 5' fences to get away. So, we were pretty sure from the beginning that the victim was lying about what happened. There were no drugs found nor were any drug charges brought so even though we knew the accused was a criminal, he wasn't guilty of the crime with which he was charged.
 
you cannot deny without medical or legal reasons.
I didn't know that. Maybe we have the same rule here too. But it's good to know at least it's possible to change the pool.

You'd think that the US is the least safe country in the world if you believed everything you saw on TV. Colin thinks we all walk around with guns on our hips.
I didn't mean it that way and I'm sorry if I sounded like that.
 
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you cannot deny without medical or legal reasons.
There is an easy way out of being on a criminal jury. Just respond that the defendant is obviously guilty since he/she was arrested.;)

PS: I was surprised that I was not tossed off a jury concerning a civil case involving a property appraisal case where the (local) government was the defendant. At the time I was a government employee doing permitting for development projects on private land. Seems that the plaintiffs would have wanted me tossed off the jury. (From what I can remember, many of the other jury members had little understanding of the appraisal process. Reminds me of what is unfortunately happening to Trump concerning his property appraisals.)
 
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From what I can remember, many of the other jury members had little understanding of the appraisal process
Is it necessary the juror having specific knowledge? I watched several very old documentaries when the prosecutor and defense attorney picking jurors, they mostly were asking non-relevant questions. Not even a question about concerning the case. (It was a medical case).

(I'm not trying to prove anything. Just trying to understand how things work there.)

Has anyone watched "Take Care of Maya"? Or heard about the lawsuit?
 
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Is it necessary the juror having specific knowledge?
No! Depending on the nature of the case, a lawyer will expel potential jurors who actually have knowledge relevant to the case. The reason, it allows the lawyer an opportunity to sway a gullible juror to their client's point of view. That is why it was very surprising that I was left on the jury. A person with knowledge may not be easily swayed by a lawyer's slick verbal elegance and the twisting of facts.
 
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Is it necessary the juror having specific knowledge?

In general, one side or the other will not want an "expert" on a jury if the case involves that juror's expertise. For instance, if there were some sort of lawsuit involving computer security, I might not be acceptable as a juror. Since I have years of experience and a nationally recognized certificate of expertise in computer security, depending on which side is bringing an expert witness, I could potentially refute or support that witness during jury deliberation, thus unfairly tipping the jury.

they mostly were asking non-relevant questions. Not even a question about concerning the case.

If you have ever seen the TV series Bull staring Michael Weatherly, you would get a hint about something called "jury stacking." It is the art of asking apparently non-relevant questions to determine subtle attitudes. By the way, as entertainment, it is an OK show but not more than just OK. I found its writers too often took "cheap plot device" methods to win their cases.

You can bet your last coin that the apparently non-relevant questions were in fact extremely relevant - in that they were designed to determine the juror's potential attitude on some subject. For instance, a so-called "whistle-blower" suit might lead to questions about a juror's attitude towards keeping business issues private even when the business is doing something questionable or borderline illegal. Looking for people who tend to protect their employer, for example. When there is a potential lawsuit for damages in a medical malpractice suit, the attorneys will look for jurors who either do or don't trust doctors. There are often questions to assure that the juror believes in "innocent until proved guilty" because as Steve R. pointed out, all you have to do is betray an attitude that if the person was arrested for the crime, he must be guilty.

A few of the most common questions might be more predictable:

Q: Do you know the defendant or any officer of the court that you currently see in the courtroom? (If so, you might have a bias to the side that person represents.)

Q: Here is a list of potential witnesses who will testify in this case... do you personally know any of them? (Again, looking for hidden bias to more heavily weigh one person's testimony and thus have an unbalanced jury.)

This one actually happened to me in the trial regarding the r.a.p.e. charges: Q: Do you personally know anyone who was forcibly r.a.p.e.d? (Looking for unusual empathy for the victim or against the accused simply because of the nature of the crime.) AND it turned out that I really DID know someone who got abducted at gunpoint while she and her boyfriend were playing tennis and were the last two people to leave the courts before the lights turned off at 10 PM. I'll spare the lurid details.

The reason that such questions are asked is because the rules say that the plaintiff/district attorney and the defendant's attorney must agree on the acceptability of each juror. Each side gets some number of what are called "peremptory challenges." They are used to get a particular juror off the panel without reason. However, if one side or the other exhausts those challenges, all other challenges must be for cause such as showing bias. The questions I mentioned above that relate to a juror knowing someone involved with the case would be "challenge for cause." The questions about attitudes or subtle bias would probably lead to "peremptory challenges."

I believe that the reason I wasn't kicked out for cause on the r.a.p.e. trial was that the defense attorney had already exhausted his peremptory challenges and could only reject for cause. My answers were apparently not over the threshold of bias because they kept me.
 
I didn't mean it that way and I'm sorry if I sounded like that.
I know you meant no offense. It is simply the image that our movies and TV project. I was really disappointed when this show didn't take off - https://www.hbo.com/the-no-1-ladies-detective-agency A quiet, funny, mystery solving program set in Botswana. I loved the episode where the monkey was the thief.
But my absolute favorite is Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries set in Melbourne in the late 1920's. The costumes and sets are fabulous and I'm also a fan of the music of the era.
 
Why in some rare cases the judge doesn’t give the sentence immediately? It’s obvious the sentence is Life, but why postponing it to a month later? The judge knows the crime, (it’s a 10 years old crime), and for sure knows the law. He had time to search the law book during the whole 7 days of trial, check if there are any point to cut the sentence to several years or give the maximum. I believe even before the trial starts, the judge reads the file, researches that specific crime and the accused. He’s not only sitting there to keep the trial in order.
What’s he waiting for? Why he needs a month for giving the sentence?

There can be a million reasons. It could be that he knows the defense is going to ask for some type of legal Hearing, and he wishes to provide time (or must provide time) for that type of hearing. It could be he wants to hear from the defendant's family or victim's family first.

and are you sure the sentence is specifically always life and cannot be more or less? That is EXTREMELY rare. Almost in every situation, if the law requires a certain sentence, it is a range - thus meaning the judge wants time to think about where he will fall in that range
 
It could be that he knows the defense is going to ask for some type of legal Hearing, and he wishes to provide time (or must provide time) for that type of hearing.
After the verdict? Is it possible?

and are you sure the sentence is specifically always life and cannot be more or less?
I didn't say always. I said in this case. The perpetrators are received life senesce. The one who hired them has received life sentence. Now it's the main character who has planned it all. It's not me, but as far as I read, all the experts believe it will be life.
I think we will see how it comes out. It's only 6 days from now. Maybe you are right.

if the law requires a certain sentence, it is a range - thus meaning the judge wants time to think about where he will fall in that range
I know and it was my question. My question was: Didn't judge had enough time to think/research/study or what it needs before and during the whole trial?
He is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and solicitation. So the verdict is guilty or not. There's no other third option.
I think the judge should have decided If the verdict comes out guilty, what would the sentence be? But after all, he's the judge and he knows far better than me. So for sure he would have strong reasons to postpone it. I only wanted to see if someone knows the exact reason.

I think I have a better vision of US courts from what Doc and others explained.
Thanks.
 
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The concept of fixed sentences for specific crimes cuts both ways. Having fixed sentences seems to imply equal justice but it also gives the judge no discretion should there be extenuating circumstances. This has led in part to a reduction in charges if the prosecutor decides that the penalties are excessive. Our judiciary had gotten to the point where it is verrrrrrrrrry left leaning and many prosecutors have decided to take the law into their own hands because they think know more than the US and State Congresses which are charged with creating laws. So they choose whether and what to charge depending on their desired outcome and the person who is accused.

We are seeing the results of this in many large cities. When you don't prosecute gun crimes to the maximum extent of the law and completely ignore all property crimes and even many crimes that result in injuries, you end up with MORE gun crime and more crime in general. During one of the recent left-wing riots, two men where charged with burning down a Wendy's restaurant. Why they did that escapes me. Maybe they "didn't get it their way" (a take on the Wendy's ads). In any event, they were fined $500 and sentenced to 400 hours of public service. All this while we have people rotting in jail waiting for trials for "parading" in the Capitol building on Jan 6th 2021. Going on three years now without bail for the crime of trespassing. They never injured anyone or destroyed any property or even broke down a barricade. They simply entered the building after the doors were open and wandered around. That is the "justice" of banana republics and that is what our "no justice for anyone you don't agree with" system has devolved to. The arsonists were "protesting" but since the left disagreed with the position of the Jan 6th folks, they weren't "protesting" they were committing an INSURRECTION. Not sure who goes to an insurrection without their guns but whatever.

The left thinks that removing guns from the hands of law-abiding citizens is the solution. That is what they say but what their intention is to remove the citizenry's ability to defend themselves from criminals and to prevent potential uprisings against the government. Of course, the kinds of firearms that citizens are allowed to purchase wouldn't even protect them against what a police officer in a poorly equipped community carries let alone what the modern soldier carries. When the second amendment was written, soldiers and farmers had equivalent armament. The military did have cannons but farmers could build them for themselves if they wanted to. So, when the citizens of the American colonies rose up against their British overlords, they had a fighting chance of winning. Not so today. The military would need to revolt in order to overturn the government. A citizen uprising couldn't do it. They could be annoying but that is it.
 
We are seeing the results of this in many large cities. When you don't prosecute gun crimes to the maximum extent of the law and completely ignore all property crimes and even many crimes that result in injuries, you end up with MORE gun crime and more crime in general. During one of the recent left-wing riots, two men where charged with burning down a Wendy's restaurant. Why they did that escapes me. Maybe they "didn't get it their way" (a take on the Wendy's ads). In any event, they were fined $500 and sentenced to 400 hours of public service. All this while we have people rotting in jail waiting for trials for "parading" in the Capitol building on Jan 6th 2021. Going on three years now without bail for the crime of trespassing. They never injured anyone or destroyed any property or even broke down a barricade. They simply entered the building after the doors were open and wandered around. That is the "justice" of banana republics and that is what our "no justice for anyone you don't agree with" system has devolved to. The arsonists were "protesting" but since the left disagreed with the position of the Jan 6th folks, they weren't "protesting" they were committing an INSURRECTION. Not sure who goes to an insurrection without their guns but whatever.
It's crazy. How is it possible at all?
 
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Many of us see the craziness that the progressive liberals have perpetrated and are doing our best to undo their level of insanity. So far, we have made little progress because we are distracted by the Trump / Biden comparisons. A true illusionist ALWAYS has a good distraction on hand.
 
After the verdict? Is it possible?


I didn't say always. I said in this case. The perpetrators are received life senesce. The one who hired them has received life sentence. Now it's the main character who has planned it all. It's not me, but as far as I read, all the experts believe it will be life.
I think we will see how it comes out. It's only 6 days from now. Maybe you are right.


I know and it was my question. My question was: Didn't judge had enough time to think/research/study or what it needs before and during the whole trial?
He is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and solicitation. So the verdict is guilty or not. There's no other third option.
I think the judge should have decided If the verdict comes out guilty, what would the sentence be? But after all, he's the judge and he knows far better than me. So for sure he would have strong reasons to postpone it. I only wanted to see if someone knows the exact reason.

I think I have a better vision of US courts from what Doc and others explained.
Thanks.
after the verdict yes hearings related to sentencing. American Criminal and Civil Procedure is gigantic and involves a hearing for just about everything except what color shoelaces the defendant has on.

No, judge sips wine coolers at break and thinks of each thing during its time only and not before, perhaps.
 
After the verdict? Is it possible?

After a guilty verdict, the (now) convicted person can be remanded to custody (translation: behind bars) or can be released on recognizance (R.O.R.) depending on issues in the severity, brutality, and aftermath of the crime. However, to understand why the R.O.R. exists at all, there are cases where the person's crime was a non-violent act against property or money, not directly against a person, and jails ARE full. Sometimes the question is, "OK, where are we going to put this person, and for how long?" In some states, this is not a trivial question depending on current jail populations. There is also the case that the defendant's lawyer has given notice of appeal, usually regarding a perceived violation of procedure or omission of relevant evidence or something else that gives technical pause to the process of justice.

In particular, if there is a substantive claim of prosecutorial misdeeds, the courts want to hold to "innocent until proved guilty" as much as possible, and so where it seems reasonable, they want to keep the person OUT of jail until the appeals are done. Therefore, it is not unusual to grant a delay before reporting for incarceration. In the recent USA case regarding the stars of Crisley Knows Best (a dumb show if ever I saw one), the two people who were convicted of fraud and swindling schemes were granted time to get things in order for their children. The courts want justice to be done but also want to minimize side-effects for people who were NOT guilty of anything but who WERE affected by secondary effects - what gamers call "splash damage." Considering the number of cases tried in each area each year, the court has quite a large load to manage.
 

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