The complexities involved in the sentencing phase

Identify a specific problem and hypothesis related to the topic.

  1. Examine the many stressors associated with law enforcement; discuss how stress can be managed in light of a Christian worldview.
  2. Analyze punishment based on “deterrence” from a biblical perspective.
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of the community policing philosophy.
  4. Our judicial system is founded on an adversarial philosophy. Examine the pros and cons of this system from a Christian worldview.
  5. Discuss the complexities involved in the sentencing phase.

6. Analyze possible problems associated with reintegration after prisonization.(You can also assess the effectiveness of prison ministries regarding reintegration.)

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 The Complexities Involved in the Sentencing Phase.

 Abstract

The sentencing phase of court proceedings usually involve complexities that could result to unfair judgments or rulings which usually result from the influence of external forces such as the media. The hypothesis that the legal system is meant to be fair and the fact that many innocent individuals have been convicted raise questions which leads to recommendations for the review of the sentencing phase of court proceedings and the legal system in general. The justifications for punishment of convicts and the right of convicts for appeal in a higher court demonstrate that even though legal systems have some flaws, they pursue the goal of protecting the society from criminals at the same time ensuring that the sentences are evidence based hence as fair as possible.

In law, sentencing is the final phase of the court process in which a judge rules to symbolize justice. At the sentence phase, it is assumed that justice has been done through the ruling of the judge or a jury’s verdict that would lead to punishment upon a convicted defendant such as a fine or imprisonment (Bibas, 2001). The question that arises as a result of court sentencing is whether justice is actually done. Many innocent people have been convicted including life imprisonment, a hypothesis which questions the level of fairness of court ruling and the legal systems in general (Lat, 2003).

In some legal systems, the punishment of defendants may go beyond the sentencing terms. This is illustrated by collateral consequences that usually result from court sentencing such as social stigma and loss of various government benefits. Fear of such consequences may heighten the tension of the defense teams during the sentencing phase. It can be argued that conviction of criminals during the sentence phase can be justified because it protects the society from criminals such as murderers and rapists (Lynch & Haney, 2009). On the flip side, some criminals have been released during the sentence phase due to lack of enough evidence hence exposing the community into the criminal activities of such individuals. Therefore judges should take time to examine all relevant evidence to ensure that criminals do not escape punishment due to lack of sufficient evidence. The police departments should also be trained on evidence management during crimes to make sure that all evidence is collected and handles properly so that court sentencing passes accurate rulings as stipulated by the law.

The sentence phase of court processes may be influenced by previous phases of the ruling process through convincing lawyers who may sway the decision of the jury. This makes the ruling of some cases to be highly predictable (Hurt, 2008). The problem that rises in predictable cases emanates from jury verdicts or judge ruling that beats the expectation of the prosecution or the defense teams. As a result, the sentencing phase usually leaves one side of the case dissatisfied with the verdict. The legal system should therefore regulate what lawyers present before the court because some lawyers discuss issues that are not relevant to a current case such as past crimes of the defendant which influences the verdict of the jury on the current case (Lat, 2003).

Some cases include involvement of the media causing a great influential impact on the ruling phase (Lynch & Haney, 2009). It is true that judges use evidence to give a ruling but external influence such as the media who would exaggerate the public perception of the accused persons may determine the direction of the sentencing. Many judges are influenced by malicious information against the accused persons which would not be unnecessarily true. But the great influence of the media on court sentences falls on the jury (William, 2004). The manner in which the defendant is portrayed by the public via the media usually leads to unfair sentences. The impact of the media is especially felt during the sentencing phase of cases that involve media coverage. Furthermore the media and the public may glorify an individual who would be guilty of a crime and thus influencing the jury who would give a verdict in favor of criminals. Therefore the legal system should limit the media impact on court proceedings by regulating the participation of defense and prosecution teams in media interviews which relate to the case.

The sentence phase during the court proceedings usually comes after processes which enable the deciding organs to analyze the conduct of the accused in regard of the legal systems so as to determine the most appropriate ruling for the defendant (Bibas, 2001). For fair sentencing, all processes that precede the sentencing phase must involve all participants of the court proceedings so that the sentencing phase reaches informed rulings. The sentence phase is not the final process of court proceedings since both parties of the case have a right of resisting the verdict up to a specific level of appeal in a higher court in the legal system (William, 2004). Despite the provision for appeal, most appeals fail to succeed and thus making the appealing party to loose confidence in the legal system especially when the defendant is innocent. Therefore the legal system should give sufficient amount of time for the court of appeal to reexamine all evidence and rulings on the appeal case so that defendants are given their right for fair trial.

Complexities during the ruling phase may include annulment of a verdict. This usually happens when irregularities in the court procedures are detected. However, most legal systems give a unique definitive sentence which can only be overruled by the court of appeal (Hurt, 2008). The court procedures should be monitored in relation to the ethics of law practice so that the cases of annulment of verdicts due to court irregularities can be minimized as much as possible. Prevention of verdict annulment through proper court procedures will boost the public perception on the legal system.

The sentencing phase of a common law system usually occurs the defendant has been convicted of a specific crime or crimes but the civil law system the judge normally pronounces a ruling by merging the guilt and the sentence phase (Lynch & Haney, 2009). This shows that the speed of sentencing varies depending on the nature of a crime. Judges usually set dates for serious offenses as opposed to minor offenses in which sentencing usually occur immediately. However in some legal systems, a minor offender may be subject to long waiting for the day of sentencing causing a lot of anxiety (William, 2004). The legal systems should provide a framework for sentencing that occurs as soon as possible to relieve families and relatives of the tension that results from a prolonged waiting for a ruling. On the other hand, it is arguable that sufficient time should be provided to both parties so that they are fully prepared to defend or prosecute so that all evidence is presented. In addition, judges may require more time to reexamine the evidence and analyze it so that they would make accurate decisions. This is likely to result into a fair trial and sentence.

The justification of the sentence phase which leads to punishment of the convicts includes deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation and retribution. However sentencing normally involves more that one justification (Lat, 2003). Deterrence means that criminals are prevented from engaging in future criminal activities against the society (Bibas, 2001). The courts should prove that the defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt before giving a punishment because it would not be logical for deterrence against an individual who did not commit the crime in the first place. Therefore it can be said that the justification of the punishments given to convicted persons should be clearly presented by the ruling organs so that the involved parties could be convinced or contented with the sentence.

References

Bibas, S. (2001). Judical fact-finding and sentence enhancements in a world of guilty pleas. The

Yale Law Journal, 110(7), 1097-1097-1185

Hurt, C. (2008). The undercivilization of corporate law. Journal of Corporation Law, 33(2), 361-

361-445.

Lynch, M., & Haney, C. (2009). Capital jury deliberation: Effects on death sentencing,

comprehension, and discrimination. Law and Human Behavior, 33(6), 481-481-496.

Lat, D. B. (2003). Sentencing and the fifth amendment. The Yale Law Journal, 107(8), 2673-

2673-2678

William J. Stuntz (2004), Plea Bargaining and Criminal Law’s Disappearing Shadow, 117,

Harvard Law Review, pp. 2548–2569

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