Trial Courts

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Lecture 17 Outline of Last Lecture I. State Courts & How They Different From Executive and Legislative Branch II. Structure of State Court Systems a. Courts of Limited Jurisdiction > Major Trial Courts > Appellate Courts > Supreme Court III. Judicial Federalism involves a dual system of courts (state and federal) IV. Five Judicial Selection Methods a. Partisan Election, Nonpartisan Election, Legislative Selection, Appointive by Governor (Interim Appointments), and Missouri or Merit Plans (3 Stages) Outline of Current Lecture I. Plea Bargaining in Courts II. Trial by Jury and Reversible Error III. Court Tier System in Texas IV. Selecting Judges in Texas (Partisan Elections, Interim Appointments by Governor) V. Court Procedures in Texas (Grand Juries, Petit Juries) VI. Federal, State, and Local Police Protection VII. Crime Reform: Three Strikes and You’re Out VIII. The Death Penalty (Furman v. Georgia in 1972, Supreme Court Issues Guidelines in 1976, Death Penalty in Texas, Money, and Public Support) Current Lecture TRIAL COURTS AND SUPREME COURTS Decision Making  plea bargaining = negotiation between defense and the prosecutor, the defendant will plead guilty in exchange for something from the state prosecutor (such as a reduction of charges, less punishment) o vast majority of cases in US are decided with plea bargaining o over 90% of criminal cases will not go to trial but instead will be decided by plea bargaining o prosecutor can also recommend a lighter sentence, the minimum sentence instead of the maximum sentence if the defendant pleads guilty  at the end of the day, the judge still decides the sentence  but judge will normally follow prosecutor’s recommendation because rely on plea bargaining to reduce number of court cases  plea bargaining is controversial in nature o many people do not like it  Why might people be opposed to it?  allows defendant to get off easy  or innocent people feel pressured to plead guilty to get lesser punishment  So why use it? Two main reasons for use: o helps reduce court case load (the US system cannot handle all the trials w/o plea bargaining) o if the prosecutor’s argument is not strong enough, can still give a punishment even if it’s less o defendant sees it as a better option

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