Posts Tagged "Criminal Case"

Kendall Coffey: International Legal Forum

Posted on Aug 29, 2014 in Blog Entry: Elections and Courts

Kendall Coffey discusses his observations of the International Legal Forum in St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg, Comparative Law and Prosecutors I recently had the pleasure of participating in the International Legal Forum in St. Petersburg, one of the world’s top legal conferences where our discussions included comparisons of legal systems throughout the world. It may be interesting at times to describe comparisons and this month we turn to a very important legal area: the role of prosecutor. In Europe as well as in Central and South America, many criminal prosecution systems are derived from the Napoleonic code which relies on a judicial officer, the investigative magistrate, to oversee the early stages of an investigation.  Pursuant to this “inquisitorial system,” the investigative magistrate rather than a prosecutor determines whether the evidence is sufficient to bring criminal charges. If the investigative magistrate decides to initiate charges, the case is generally assigned to a different judge who will preside over the determination of guilt or innocence. In recent years, while retaining some features of the inquisatorial system, Russia’s criminal code has been moving to an “adversarial system” in which the prosecutor rather than a magistrate has ultimate responsibility to decide whether to bring formal charges against particular defendants. The United States, where more than 14,000,000 arrests are made each year, an adversarial system is used. With federal prosecutions, each district has a U.S. Attorney appointed by the President who also appoints the U.S. Attorney General in Washington. While federal prosecutors handle many extremely important cases, the vast majority of cases – more than 95% of the crimes in the country – are prosecuted by state and local prosecutors. The offices of local prosecutors are commonly headed by officials elected by the voters from the local community. For example, in Miami, the prosecution office is headed by the state attorney elected every four years by the voters in Miami Dade County. With federal, state and local prosecutors, decisions to bring criminal charges are made by prosecutors rather than an investigative magistrate. Although a grand jury is required to bring felony charges in the federal system and death penalty cases in Florida’s state system, grand juries almost always approve the requests made by...

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Kendall Coffey: Michael Brown Blog Post

Posted on Aug 29, 2014 in Blog Entry: Criminal Cases, Blog Entry: Elections and Courts

Federal and State Authorities and the Michael Brown Shooting Death By Kendall Coffey The fatal shooting of unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri has captured attention around the world, not only for a tragic death but also for the images of heavily armed police forces confronting protestors. Ironically, while the United States has criticized heavy handed displays of police forces and weapons confronting protestors in other countries, we are now seeing some of the same disturbing images in the heartland of America. Hoping to address community concerns while invoking the proper role of federal law enforcement, the U.S. government launched scores of F.B.I. agent to examine whether federal laws have been violated. Although a few have questioned whether this federal effort is responding to political pressures, the reality is that it is highly appropriate for U.S. authorities to investigate actions of police who kill civilians, since such actions, depending upon the evidence, could violate U.S. civil rights laws. At the same time that the federal investigation is continuing, it is ordinarily the state and local authorities have who have the primary role in investigating shooting deaths and other crimes of violence. Thus, under our U.S. Constitution the federal government, as well as state authorities, have separate, distinct, but extremely important roles. Although duplication might seem possible, each governmental authority is investigating the enforcement of its own laws rather than repeating the enforcement of the laws of a different jurisdiction. In such cases, a defendant can be prosecuted not only under federal laws for civil rights crimes, but also under state homicide laws. Because there are different governments, even an acquittal under, for example, federal laws would not prevent a separate prosecution under state’s laws because there are separate jurisdictions for the separate prosecutions. Thus, the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown could be prosecuted by both federal and state prosecutors, by only one prosecution authority, or by neither. This is a well settled principal of our jurisprudence. It represents the legacy of the founders of our country who created a national government while assuring that it would not displace the vital role of state governments in our constitutional...

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