The criminal justice process of the United States is what is called an “adversarial system.” This means that it operates like a game of football, where two sides do absolutely everything that they can, within the rules, to score more points than their opponent and come away with a win. As for tactics that break the rules, some teams are more willing to take that step, too, in the hopes that they will not get caught.
In the criminal system, these two sides are the prosecution and the defense. The rules are set by the courts, with the judges acting as referees.
These are all important things to remember, because understanding how the game works helps you to understand why the sides do what they do.
The Goal of the Prosecution is a Guilty Verdict and a Maximum Sentence
Prosecutors have one job to do: Get the maximum penalty for those who get charged with a crime. In an adversarial system, they have no incentive to go for anything less – it is up to the defense side to prevent them from getting too much, and it is up to the judge to make sure they play by the rules.
Unfortunately, just like in football, there are teams of prosecutors who are willing to risk going outside the rules to get guilty verdicts and harsh penalties. Luckily, the Supreme Court just caught one of them after they put a man on death row for most of his life.
Foster v. Chatman
When the defense and the prosecution select the jurors that will hear a trial, each side is given a set of peremptory challenges, which they can use to prevent a potential juror from being selected. Importantly, these cannot be used to exclude a juror solely because of their race.
However, in the murder trial of Timothy Foster, a black man, that is exactly what the Georgia prosecutors did. All four of the prospective jurors who were black were excluded from the jury by the prosecution. Mr. Foster was then found guilty. Despite their claims otherwise, investigation into the prosecutor's motives found that there were numerous documents showing that it was the race of the four jurors that had been the deciding factor in excluding them from the jury. Nevertheless, Foster's appeals were rejected for a variety of reasons by the Georgia courts.
The Supreme Court heard the case and decided, 7-1, that the prosecution's peremptory challenges broke the rules against using them on a race basis, and that the Georgia court's decision otherwise was “clearly erroneous.”
Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney Steve Karimi
Because we work in an adversarial system, you can and should expect prosecutors to fight for all they are worth to have you found guilty of the crime that you are charged with, and then to have you sentenced to the fullest possible extent. The best way to prevent this from happening is to hire a solid criminal defense attorney, like Steve Karimi. Contact his law office online or by calling (206) 621-8777.