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NCJ Number: 65067 Find in a Library
Title: JOINT TRIALS OF DEFENDANTS IN CRIMINAL CASES - AN ANALYSIS OF EFFICIENCIES AND PREJUDICES
Journal: MICHIGAN LAW REVIEW  Volume:77  Issue:6  Dated:(JUNE 1979)  Pages:1379-1455
Author(s): R O DAWSON
Corporate Author: Michigan Law Review Assoc
United States of America
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 77
Sponsoring Agency: Michigan Law Review Assoc
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THE VIEWPOINT THAT DEFENDANTS IN CRIMINAL CASES SHOULD NOT BE TRIED JOINTLY IS PRESENTED; THE PRESUMPTION THAT DEFENDANTS JOINED TOGETHER SHOULD BE TRIED TOGETHER IS REBUTTED AS ARE ARGUMENTS FAVORING JOINT TRIALS.
Abstract: WHILE SUBSTANTIVE CRIMINAL LAW HONORS THE PRINCIPLE OF INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY, THAT PRINCIPLE IS JEOPARDIZED IN A JOINT TRIAL OF TWO OR MORE DEFENDANTS. STATUTES OR DECISIONS IN ALL JURISDICTIONS PERMIT JOINDER OF DEFENDANTS CHARGED WITH THE SAME OFFENSE, OR WITH DIFFERENT OFFENSES ARISING OUT OF THE SAME TRANSACTION, EPISODE, OR SERIES OF TRANSACTIONS. AFTER JOINDER, SEPARATION IS POSSIBLE, BUT IN PRACTICE TRIAL COURTS SEPARATE TRIALS ONLY UPON A SHOWING OF SUBSTANTIAL PREJUDICE TO THE DEFENDANT, AND APPELLATE COURTS REVERSE A DENIAL OF SEVERANCE ONLY FOR ABUSE OF DISCRETION. THE STRONGEST JUSTIFICATION FOR JOINT TRIALS, EFFICIENCY, HAS BEEN EXAGGERATED. WHETHER THE TRIAL IS JOINT OR INDIVIDUAL AFFECTS ONLY A SMALL PORTION OF THE PROSECUTOR'S TIME. WHEN CASES ARE SEVERED THE FIRST TRIAL MAY WELL BE THE ONLY TRIAL AS THE RESULTS WILL PROMPT LITIGANTS TO DISPOSE OF REMAINING CASES WITHOUT JURY TRIAL. THE CONSISTENCY OF VERDICT ARGUMENT MAKES THE SAME FAULTY ASSUMPTION THAT THE EFFICIENCY ARGUMENT MAKES, I.E., THAT ALL RELATED DEFENDANTS WILL GO TO TRIAL. FINALLY, JOINT TRIALS CREATE COMPLEXITIES WHICH ARE CONFUSING TO THE JURY. JOINT TRIAL MAY ALSO CREATE OR AGGRAVATE PREJUDICES AGAINST THE DEFENDANT. THE CODEFENDANT MAY CONFESS BEFORE THE TRIAL AND ACCUSE ANOTHER DEFENDANT OF COMPLICITY. TO DEFEND HIMSELF PROPERLY ONE CODEFENDANT MAY HAVE TO PRODUCE EVIDENCE THAT INCRIMINATES ANOTHER. JOINED DEFENDANTS MAY PREFER DIFFERENT DEFENSE STRATEGIES. A CODEFENDANT MAY BE WILLING TO TESTIFY ON BEHALF OF A DEFENDANT BUT REFUSE TO DO SO IN A JOINT TRIAL BECAUSE HIS TESTIMONY MAY ADVERSELY AFFECT HIS OWN DEFENSE. ANOTHER DANGER OF JOINDER IS THAT A DEFENDANT MAY BE PREJUDICED BY HIS CODEFENDANT'S CRIMINAL RECORD. LEGISLATION AND RULES OF COURT HAVE MOVED TOWARD GREATER RELIANCE ON JOINT TRIALS. ONLY THE UNIFORM RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE RUN COUNTER TO THE TREND AND SHOULD BE FOLLOWED. THE PROSECUTION SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO PROVE THE NECESSITY OF JOINT TRIAL, AND THE PRESUMED USE SHOULD BE ELIMINATED. FOOTNOTES ARE PROVIDED. (LWM)
Index Term(s): Criminal proceedings; Defendants; Discrimination; Joinder and severance; Right to fair trial; Trials
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