Why Request a Case to Go to a Jury Trial?
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The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is the fundamental right to a jury trial, a cornerstone of American justice designed to prevent the emergence of an oppressive government. Mirroring this, the Arizona Constitution Article VI, Section 17, safeguards the right to a trial by jury in felony cases within the state. Despite this,
Arizona law stipulates that certain misdemeanors and petty offenses, typically those punishable by less than six months in jail, do not warrant a jury trial.
For more severe charges, Arizona defendants can waive a jury trial in favor of a bench trial, where a judge alone determines the outcome. Understanding the nuances of this choice—its benefits and potential pitfalls—is crucial for those embarking on the criminal justice journey. The advice of a criminal defense attorney becomes indispensable in this decision.
With the proper guidance, defendants can make informed decisions about their right to a jury trial, considering the complexities and potential consequences. It is a decision that bears significant weight on the outcome of their case and ultimately, their future.
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, as of April 2023, jury trials in the United States have resulted in wrongful convictions that have later been overturned in approximately 2,000 cases since 1989.
For criminal defendants, the right to a jury trial is found in the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This right and the others enshrined in the Constitution are intended to keep the country from instituting an oppressive government.
Arizona has a similar right to a trial by jury found in Ariz. Const. Art. VI § 17. The right to a jury trial in criminal cases is recognized in felony cases in Arizona.
However, people who are charged with certain misdemeanors carrying less than six months in jail or petty offenses do not have a right to have their cases heard by a jury.
Criminal defendants who are facing more severe charges have the right to waive their rights to trials by juries. When that occurs, their cases are heard by a judge instead of a jury of their peers.
People who are facing serious criminal charges should understand the purposes of a jury and the pros and cons of choosing a trial by jury. Getting guidance from an experienced criminal defense trial attorney is essential before making a decision about whether to waive your rights and choose a bench trial or to proceed to a trial by jury
What is the Purpose of a Jury Trial?
A jury is selected from a cross-section of the community in which the defendant is charged. Each juror is sworn in and must take an oath to decide the case based on the facts and the law.
During a trial, the jury members listen to the evidence that is presented by the prosecutor and the defense attorney. Once both sides rest, the jury meets to decide whether to find the defendant guilty or not guilty of the offenses charged.
During a jury trial, the judge determines which evidence the prosecutor and defense attorney can admit. The judge will also give instructions to the jury about the law and legal principles that the jurors must follow. If a jury returns a guilty verdict, the judge will determine the appropriate sentence.
The purpose of a jury is to have a fair trial. Jurors are supposed to be impartial. During the jury selection, or voir dire process, the attorneys and judge can ask prospective jurors questions to identify any biases. The attorneys can eliminate prospective jurors through the use of for cause or peremptory challenges.
However, a jury cannot be chosen in a way that might be biased. For example, a prosecutor cannot eliminate all Black jurors in a case with a Black defendant.
What are the Pros of Choosing a Trial by Jury?
Choosing a trial by jury offers several benefits to criminal defendants. Some of the benefits are detailed below.
- A Jury of Your Peers
Juries are made up of a randomly selected cross-section of the people in your community. This can help to increase the objectivity of the jury’s decision-making process. Since prosecutors and defense attorneys do have limited power to remove certain jurors, a jury may also be fairer to both sides.
- Elimination of Bias
A jury can help to eliminate bias in criminal cases. Having a jury of multiple people to discuss and decide facts lessens the likelihood that a single person who is biased against the defendant will sway the decision.
- Voir Dire Increases Impartiality
During voir dire, the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense lawyer can ask prospective jurors questions that are designed to elicit information so that they can determine whether a juror can be impartial and fair. Prospective jurors can be dismissed if their answers do not indicate that they can be impartial.
- Minimum Number of Jurors
In federal criminal trials, the final jury must be comprised of 12 jurors. There might also be an alternate, but the jury panel of 12 jurors are the only ones involved in the decision-making process. In the Arizona criminal court system, criminal case juries in Superior Court have between eight and 12 members, depending on the severity of the case.
In courts of limited jurisdiction, criminal juries have six members. In any criminal case, the juries must reach unanimous decisions before defendants can be found guilty.
What are the Cons of a Trial by Jury?
There are also a few drawbacks of a trial by jury. Your attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision.
- Convictions Caused by Bias
While juries are designed to be fair and impartial, it is still possible for a jury to find a defendant guilty because of bias. Prosecutors sometimes try to stack juries in their favor during the jury selection process to try to obtain a finding of guilt. This makes the defense attorney’s skill during voir dire very important to prevent this from happening.
- High False Conviction Rates in Violent Felony Cases
In capital cases and other violent felony offenses, research has shown a high false conviction rate. Many stories of people spending years in prison only to later be cleared by DNA evidence have made national news over the past decade.
- Potential for a Strong Personality to Sway the Jury
In some cases, a single juror will have a strong personality and the ability to sway the jurypanel to make a particular decision. A single juror can also cause a hung jury if he or she reaches a decision that is different than the other jurors.
- Length of Time to Reach a Decision
Jury deliberations can take a long time when a case’s merits are under dispute. In serious cases, juries may deliberate for weeks or months before reaching decisions.
What Does a Hung Jury Mean?
In criminal trials, juries must reach unanimous decisions. This means that every member of the jury panel must agree on the finding of guilt or lack of guilt. If one juror disagrees and refuses to issue the same decision as the rest of the jury, it can be a hung jury. The criminal defendant cannot be convicted by a hung jury.
Instead, the case will be in limbo until the prosecutor decides whether to retry it or dismiss it. In severe cases, prosecutors usually choose to retry the cases at new trials. If a jury informs the judge that they are unable to reach a decision, the judge will typically give further instructions to try to facilitate a decision.
However, if the jury still cannot reach a decision, the judge will declare a hung jury.
Having an Attorney is Important When Cases Go to Trial
While there are both pros and cons to jury trials, the decision to waive your right to a trial by jury is not something that you should take lightly. If you choose to waive your right, your case will be decided by a single judge. A criminal court judge may have biases against defendants gained over years of serving as a judge in criminal cases.
If you try to go to a jury trial on your own, you will be expected to know the rules of evidence and the trial procedures in the same way as the prosecutor. You will be required to know how to make objections, enter evidence and exhibits at trial, participate in jury selection, and call and question witnesses correctly.
Even if you have a legal background, trying to represent yourself can be difficult. An experienced criminal defense trial attorney at CHM Law understands the criminal trial process and can help to guide you through the trial process. To learn more, call us today at (602) 825-2500.
David Maletta is a widely respected criminal defense attorney with over 23 years of experience and has worked on over 1,000 cases and has successfully won over 100 jury trials. David graduated from Northern Arizona University, Magna Cum Laude in 1993 with a degree in Psychology. Shortly thereafter, he earned his Juris Doctor degree from Seton Hall University School of Law in 1998. He has extensive experience in criminal and DUI matters, homicide, sexually-based offenses, domestic violence, white-collar crimes, and various misdemeanor crimes.
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“There is NOBODY I would rather have defending me than David”
I hired David Maletta and it was the best decision of my life. His knowledge, genuine interest, overall attitude, and ability to connect with people is incomparable. I could talk about all of this at length. I COULD do all of that, but that wouldn’t do David justice. He first and foremost demonstrates his interest and genuine care for his client. Being in uncharted territory with a criminal charge and nowhere to turn, David’s presence and personality put all nerves at ease. I went through a jury trial with David beside me. The trial ran for 3 days and I spent a significant amount of time with David one-on-one. During this stressful time, he wanted to hear my input and thoughts on everything. David was incredible from the first day I met him. Not only is he a great attorney, but he is also a great person who cares about people and finding justice for his clients. He connects to the human side of people. I can’t put into words how much David cares about the individual in a case. When it comes to the courtroom, there is NOBODY I would rather have defending me than David.
Jacob - AVVO Review
“Responsive, sympathetic, professional, patient, and kind.”
On one of the worst and most surreal nights of my life (do not EVER get a DUI people!) I was lucky enough to find my way to Tim Hintze. Being in Phoenix for the Thanksgiving holiday from out of town, and after spending the evening with family, I ended up spending the night in jail.
Tim turned one of the worst experiences in my life into “it could have been so much worse!” Working with him from a different state, he covered the bases & paperwork, showed up for me in court, gave me numerous connections to muck my way through the system, and held my hand the whole way.
I cannot imagine how much worse this experience could have been, and thanks to Tim, I didn’t need to. He was responsive, sympathetic, professional, patient, and kind throughout the long process, drawn out by many months due to Covid.
Keep Tim’s number handy and in your contacts in the event you are ever in the sorry position to need a DUI lawyer!
Holly Weber - Google Review
“Nothing but good things to say about my experience.”
I have nothing but good things to say about my experience working with David Maletta. I was in a very high-stress situation facing a pending DUI charge. He doesn’t know this, but I actually interviewed 5 potential lawyers, and he was the most optimistic of all of them. He took over and handled everything, and now I don’t have to live with a DUI. Thank you so much for everything! Highly recommend them to anyone looking for legal help.
Lauren Koontz - Google Review
“Listens to every request that you make on a case”
I honestly just want to let it be known to any and everyone looking for an attorney on a case. Whether it be DUI, possession, or your every day to day traffic violations where you need representation attorney Tim Hintze is your man. You have to respect a man that listens to every request that you make on a case and he gets in there and gets it done. Tim has my respect as an attorney and being a well-rounded representer. From him being honest on the possibility and options for your case to him being easy to work and communicate with via over the phone or face to face Mr. Hintze is working it out.
Ben - AVVO Review
“Very professional, very empathetic, and very responsive to all the issues.”
I had the opportunity to work with Darin during a very troublesome time in my life. As a family attorney, I found him to be very professional, very empathetic, and very responsive to all the issues I faced. I would recommend him to anyone without a second thought. Thank you, Darin!
Gary C. - Google Review
“He fights for his clients like no one I have ever seen”
David Maletta is the absolute best trial attorney in the state of Arizona. He is a kind, emphatic, and extremely patient person. As an attorney, he is prepared, aggressive, and extremely skilled. He is not afraid to go to trial and fight for his clients, like other attorneys that just plead their clients to the original charges. When he is in trial, he flips a switch and goes from a nice guy to a killing machine. He fights for his clients like no one I have ever seen. Watching him do a cross-examination is exhilarating because he is so good it’s scary.
Patricia Bevins - Google Review
“The calm in the middle of my storm…”
I recently consulted with Darin after my wife filed for divorce. He was referred to me by a friend whom I very much trust. Darin was the antithesis of the first two attorneys I consulted (who were matter-of-fact and had very little empathy about the fact that I was struggling emotionally with what was transpiring). From the first few minutes of speaking with Darin, it was obvious that he was very knowledgeable and skilled with divorce and family matters. While that was most important to me, the thing that made the difference was his calming, logical, and empathetic approach. He took the time to listen and empathize with me. He took the time to understand what I wanted to achieve through this process and laid out my options. After the consultation, I knew he would be my attorney if I had to pull the trigger. I, ultimately, didn’t have to engage Darin’s services due to a reconciliation with my wife. I hope I never have to go through that process again. However, if I do, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt who I will be hiring to represent me…Darin R. Colburn. Darin, thank you for caring and being more than an attorney.
Frank - AVVO Review
“I still have a clean record to this day.”
One piece of advice for people who are charged with anything in Arizona is to hire a great lawyer because the state does not care if you’re innocent or not. The Arizona legal system will try to ruin your life. A couple of years ago I was the victim of an antisemitic hate crime when a guy named Billy, who had a history of drug and alcohol issues and was thrown out of the Navy for being violent, decided to attack me after drinking all day in Old Town (Sunday funday) over a pointless argument over whether it’s better to buy homes immediately post-recession or during the 10th year of a bull market run which was his argument. The disagreement led to Billy making several anti-semitic comments and assaulting me, which led to me beating up billy. Billy and his friends then went to the police and lied to try to get me thrown in jail for months for assault while getting 10s of thousands of dollars in restitution in the process. I hired David Maletta. We went to court and destroyed Billy and his best friend/roommate Taylor who were trying to extort me and ruin my life. In Arizona there is a 3.5% chance you’ll get all charges dropped because of how hard the state is on crime but we pulled it off and I still have a clean record to this day.
MJ Walsh - Google Review
“I would give them more stars, but the option is not there”
Best divorce lawyers in Arizona, hands down. Timothy Hintz handled my divorce, and as a father, I have my son and our house. I would give them more stars, but the option is not there. His paralegal Jennifer Bone is extremely competent, and the whole team is very friendly. Took a big weight off, having them behind me.
Joseph A. - Google Review
“David was relentless in his pursuit of my son’s innocence”
We retained David Maletta to represent our son after being cited for what can only be described as a momentary lapse of reason. David was extremely knowledgeable, was able to clearly communicate very complicated concepts, and was relentless in his pursuit of my son’s innocence. He had strong relationships with the prosecuting attorney and respect of the judge, which ultimately resulted in my son learning a really hard lesson with limited consequences (traffic school and writing an essay to the judge on the physics of driving 130MPH and what happens if that goes badly). I have already sent all of my friends with teenage and 20 year old kids his contact information for when they inevitably get that call. David completely exceeded all of our expectations and we could not recommend him any stronger. Thank you for everything.
Shawn H. - Google Review
“This was the best possible outcome, great price, and fast.”
Darin helped me with a complex family law issue involving ownership of multiple businesses and other assets. He was able to structure a win-win that wasn’t only better than I thought was possible but that protected the business I had built. Above and beyond that, he did it with great customer service and character – which really matters to me. This was the best possible outcome, great price, and fast.
David R. - Google Review
“I was found NOT GUILTY. Dave won the trial for me.”
Dave stayed with me while he pushed back and forth with Covid-19 and the delays with court. Once cited, the state basically decides that you’re guilty through the automatic suspension of your drivers license. Dave immediately took care of that problem and I never lost the privilege of driving. Dave took notes like crazy and was upfront about our uphill battle. I was also well aware that the plea deal that was given to us, was unacceptable and through Dave’s knowledge and experience I had put my trust in him to guide me to make the right decision on how to proceed. With Dave’s guidance I had decided that we needed to fight for something better than what the prosecutor was offering and Dave was 100 percent behind me on that decision. We knew the risks, be we also knew we had very little to lose based on the prosecutions stance. We decided to go to trial… Watching the prosecution and then watching Dave was night and day!! It was clear to the jury that the prosecution didn’t have their facts straight and were not addressing the facts that they could not address…There was a lot at stake for my personal life and my work life. I was found NOT GUILTY. Dave won the trial for me.