Two teenagers, Tim Barns and Jack Carter, were charged with murder. It was alleged that they kidnapped two 10-year-old boys. They beat and tortured the boys, before killing them. The victims were found in a wooded area, just outside of town.
During the initial investigation, police felt there was evidence of “cult” activity, as the scene where the boys bodies were discovered indicated that this may have been some type of “sacrifice.” This directed their attention to the two local teenagers, due to their clothing, tattoos, and general appearance; they also listened to heavy metal music. They stood out from the rest of the small community, which was much more conservative.
The police pressed the younger of the two teenagers, Jack, into a confession. They did not obtain written permission from the Jacks father to interview him, which is required. Afterwards, a local criminal defense attorney took up the case, pro bono.
At trial the prosecution presented this confession, along with some physical evidence (clothing/fibers from the boys homes/things) that were arguably similar to fibers found at the scene. No other specific DNA evidence tied the defendants to the scene of the crime.
There were also two witnesses who said that they overheard the two teenagers discussing the fact that they committed the murder and would commit additional murders. However, under cross examination, their testimony was not consistent with other facts. No witnesses could place them in the area of the incident on the day in question.
Despite the efforts of the defense attorneys, the judge ruled in favor of the prosecution on several key evidentiary matters. The jury convicted the two of murder. Tim, being 18 years old at the time of the crime, was sentenced to death; 16-year-old Jack, whose confession was used to convict them, received a life sentence.
Part 1 – Initial investigation and trial
Whats the function of the criminal courts in society?
What are the roles of the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney in a criminal case? What do they do? What is their obligation? Tie this discussion into the specifics of the hypothetical case.
Are we seeing the adversarial model or the consensual model at work in this case? Is this protecting due process rights or focusing more on crime control?
Part 2 – Jury Decision
What is the function of the criminal court jury?
Discuss three reasons for the importance of juries in American society.
Analyze the role that a jury plays in society, and discuss whether you believe that juries are generally successful in performing their intended function. Was the jury successful here?
Part 3 – Appeal
After 6 years in jail and maintaining their innocence, the two defendants successfully appealed their convictions, based on new evidence. Before a new trial, they enter an Alford plea. This plea means that they admit that the prosecutor may have sufficient evidence to support the elements of the crime, but they do not admit that they committed the crime. The prosecution and the judge accepted the plea, and sentenced the men to 3 years in prison, but with 6 years of time served, they were released.
Did the prosecution and defense do their job well at trial? Does this work lead to negative impressions of the legal professional? How might this case highlight some of the reason discussed in your text about why people have negative impressions of attorneys? Note at least 3 different reasons for negative impressions of attorneys. How might the public view the work of either of the sides in a positive light? Explain.
Compare and contrast the reasons that a defendant may have for favoring a plea bargain versus that of the prosecutor. Should we permit Alford pleas? Why or why not? For some assistance on this final aspect of the project,
please review the following article: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/plea/four/nolo.html#65. Do you favor the proceduralist approach or the substantive values approach, suggested by the author? Explain your response.
This project should be 6 pages in length (roughly 1500 words, excluding cover page and references). You will use the chapter reading and at least four outside authoritative sources (including the article provided) to help support your analysis.