Courtroom Procedures Problem Assignment
This is a trial for human trafficking. A defendant is a Guatemalan man about 30 years old, charged with luring Russian teenage girls to the US promising honest work, but instead trapping them into sex slavery.
Before trial, the defendant is represented by a public defender. A week before trial, he tells the judge that he no longer trusts his defense attorney and he wants to substitute a private attorney that his family has retained. The retained lawyer says that he is happy to take the case, but he cannot be prepared to go to trial next week and will need at least six months to prepare for trial (which is a pretty typical timeframe for this type of case). The prosecutor objects to the defendant’s motion to substitute counsel, saying that the delay will have a negative impact on the victim/witnesses, the Russian teenage girls who are currently being held in juvenile detention while they are waiting for trial. The prosecutor argues that if the case is delayed six months, the Russian teenage girls will run away and go home, and he will have to drop the case. The judge agrees with the prosecutor and denies the motion for substitution of counsel.
The trial begins with jury selection. Twenty potential jurors are selected. Five of the potential jurors are racial minorities; the rest are white. The prosecuting attorney uses his peremptory challenges to strike all the non-white jurors. The defense attorney raises a Batson challenge. The prosecutor explains that he struck Non-White Juror (“NWJ”) # 1 because she was too old to hear properly, he struck NWJ # 2 and 3 because they testified that they had family members or friends in prison (and thus would likely be pro-defense) and he struck NWJ # 4 and 5 because he “didn’t like the way they looked at me.”
On the second day of trial, the defendant’s family members come to trial. The defendant’s sister brings her 5-year-old son, the defendant’s nephew. Normally children are allowed to come to court. However, the judge is concerned that the presence of the 5-year-old in court will cause the jury to feel sympathy for the defendant because they will think it is his son. The judge decides to exclude the 5-year-old from the court. Because the kid has no one else to look after him, the defendant’s sister also has to leave the court.
The jury finds the defendant guilty, and the judge holds a sentencing hearing. By state law, the crime of trafficking minors carries mandatory sentencing of the death penalty. Therefore, the prosecutor argues for the judge to impose the mandatory death penalty. The judge finds that because the death penalty is mandatory, neither the defendant himself or his defense attorney have the right to make any “mitigating” (favorable) arguments in favor of a lighter sentence. He then imposes the death sentence without hearing from the defense attorney or the client.
The defense attorney raises at least five Constitutional challenges to the trial and sentencing on appeal.
This is your course Summative Assignment. Prepare your paper with as much detail as possible, and discuss as many concepts as you can from the course thus far – citing from your textbook for support where applicable. Write a 4-5 page essay explaining the following:
What Constitutional issues or problems are raised in this fact pattern? Give evidence to support your observations.
If you were the Judge, how would you rule?
Outline your arguments in order of importance – what is the strongest argument that there is a Constitutional violation?
Cite a case from the textbook and provide the chapter and section or page from your textbook, where applicable.