Its time to go to trial

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The most well known facet of the judicial process is the trial portion of a case. Television depictions of Perry Mason, Matlock and the ever popular Law and Order give the public a glimpse of what a criminal trial entails.

But like the entire judicial process, consisting of an arrest, bond, preliminary hearing and grand jury, before a case reaches trial, there is more to what really happens and what is perceived as happening as a case goes to trial.

From the grand jury indictment to trial there is a sparring process between a district attorney and defense attorney as each play their side. A district attorney is faced with weeding out cases that they feel doesn&8217;t warrant being placed on a trial docket due to the limit span of the trial period.

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Griggers said he receives around 100 indictments each of the three grand jury terms a year in Marengo County. He said from those indictments he has five days for trial, minus one for jury selection, allowing for 12 days a year for criminal trials in the county.

Griggers said the prosecution tries to free up as much space as they can during the criminal motions period prior to a trial. He said this is when a defendant is supposed to enter their plea if they hope to receive one.

Attorney William Coplin said the criminal motions hearing prior to a trial is an important time for the defense attorneys as well. He said this is the time when the defense files motions regarding the case and receives the evidence of the prosecution.

Coplin said a defense attorney must look over the materials and analyze the situation in order to achieve the most favorable outcome for the client. He said it is during this period that a defense attorney must make the decision to accept or request a plea.

Griggers said during the whole process leading up to a trial the defense is kept busy preparing material, both for themselves and for the defense. Witnesses are called, subpoenaed, and their availability confirmed for the trial.

It is only after this hectic pretrial process that a case, if not plead, eventually makes it before a judge, and the trial portion of the process depicted on television and film appears. And even here the prosecutor must watch as the precious days allocated for trials tick away with each case.

If cases eat up time and the docket is not depleted by the end of the allocated time, they are added to the prosecutor&8217;s list for the next trial period later that year. This gives the defense the edge during plea-bargaining and forces only those cases that cannot be plead or those a district attorney feels morally obligated to try to go before a judge.