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Victims' Buttons Warrant New Trial

A murder conviction has been overturned by a California appeals court because the victim's family wore buttons with an image of the victim throughout the trial. The jury may have been swayed by the display.

This is an extraneous influence calculated to sway the emotions of the jury. It's justly prohibited by law. Blame this one on the trial judge and the prosecutors. The defense objected to the buttons during trial and the judge refused to tell the family to remove them. The prosecutors should have told the family this is inappropriate. They gambled that they'd get away with this display in this age of victims' rights and they lost.

The appeals court majority said the case was comparable to two others in which convictions were overturned: a 1976 Supreme Court case in which the defendant was forced to wear prison clothing and shackles in court, and a 1990 Ninth Circuit case in which spectators at a rape trial wore buttons reading "Women Against Rape.'' In both cases, the court said, a message of guilt was conveyed to the jury.

In this case, where the only issue was the claim of self-defense, "the buttons essentially 'argue' that Studer was the innocent party and that the defendant was necessarily guilty,'' said Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

Now the taxpayers will have to foot the bill for a new trial. That's what happens when one side tries to bend the rules and play the sympathy card. [link via How Appealing.]

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  • Re: Victims' Buttons Warrant New Trial (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Apr 09, 2005 at 05:20:38 PM EST
    great...like CA can afford another trial to foot the bill for....

    Re: Victims' Buttons Warrant New Trial (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Apr 09, 2005 at 05:38:28 PM EST
    It seems to be lost in the infotainment industry, but criminal prosecution is about an adversarial process between the State (representing the public in general, but no one in particular) and a person accused of a crime. Victims and their families are to a certain extent no one in particular in this venue. Civil prosecution on the other hand is one person or group of persons against another person. I know victims and their families often feel (perhaps rightly) that they don't get adequate treatment from the criminal courts, but the design is not about the victim, it's about determining if a person has violated one of the State's rules and if so, what the punishment is for the violation. The structure, design, purpose of our basic institutions appears to be complex for many Americans to grasp. Add the problem of the American Taliban yammering about activist judges and making statements that will be construed by certain nutcases as orders to attack judges and you get a justice system in crisis.

    Re: Victims' Buttons Warrant New Trial (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Apr 09, 2005 at 05:40:14 PM EST
    Where are we getting judge's? from the third world? and how can the jury be swayed by pic's on buttons? how sad can you get, just wait and see. the question should be did the guy do the murder? if i get put in prison for murder or politically attacks on the system i want a jury and a judge that can sentence/convicted me for something i did not for the show, but now our system is just for the show.

    Re: Victims' Buttons Warrant New Trial (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Apr 09, 2005 at 07:47:13 PM EST
    The judge was wrong but this kind of victim advocacy is not uncommon. It seems that it could sway a jury but then again sometimes the prosecution does not do a good job representing the victims. Overall it is a tough call for judges, procecutors, juries, and the families of the victims. In my county a prosecutor and jury were driven by the victim's family's pleas to convict an innocent man only to be reversed by a jailhouse confession by the real murderer. That the Prosecutor didn't put a stop to this display was wrong and that the Judge allowed it is inexcusable. It was generally media driven and the family was wrong and had a grudge against the mistaken perpertrator because of an age thing. And honestly I'm a "Law & Order" type of fellow.

    Re: Victims' Buttons Warrant New Trial (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Apr 09, 2005 at 07:58:31 PM EST
    The prosecutors do not represent the victims. Prosecutors represent the State, the public, not the victims. As to whether the prosecutors do their job well - I think any defense types will tell you that in 95% (maybe 99%, OJ being representative of the exception) of criminal cases, the prosecution has much greater resources at their beck and call than the defense will be able to muster.

    Re: Victims' Buttons Warrant New Trial (none / 0) (#6)
    by wishful on Sat Apr 09, 2005 at 09:04:49 PM EST
    Unfortunately, justice is the frequent victim in our system. I don't believe that we are going in the right direction. There is too much blood lust, causing too many instances of "Any conviction will do. If he didn't do it, he probably did something just as bad and didn't get caught", instead of trying to find the truth. As far as victims rights and things such as Victim Impact Statements: what if the victim was not well-connected or was a loner or without family? Does that mean that since there is no impact on a loved one, that the criminal should get off easier than if the victim had lots of family or was well-placed? How is this justice?

    Re: Victims' Buttons Warrant New Trial (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Apr 10, 2005 at 07:33:00 AM EST
    As far as victims rights and things such as Victim Impact Statements: what if the victim was not well-connected or was a loner or without family? Does that mean that since there is no impact on a loved one, that the criminal should get off easier than if the victim had lots of family or was well-placed? How is this justice?
    Justice is served if the prosecutor represents the state - the public at large - well by proving their case and seeing that a person who has committed a criminal wrong against the STATE receives punishment. All of the sentence guidelines designs are supposed to keep judges from being too lenient with folks and putting the public in increased danger. Justice is not served well if public pressure, infotainment tv, public hysteria take over and invade the courtroom. That's why this case was overturned. Despite all the political heat and rhetoric, judges need to rule their courtrooms to prevent the erosion of the justice system. Scott Peterson would be the poster boy for justice system erosion, but who would want the poster? Judges are in a tough spot. If they are true to their constitutional duties they risk the public scrutiny and targeting of folks like Tom DeLay. If they wilt a little and allow badges and cameras in the courtroom, they risk getting overturned on appeals. As noted above, this is expensive and the cost is the tip of the iceberg of real damage being done to the justice system these days.

    Re: Victims' Buttons Warrant New Trial (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Apr 11, 2005 at 12:22:21 PM EST
    Send him to Texas and we will show you how conduct a "fair trial" and then we will show you how to put the needle in his arm!!!