The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides the right to a jury trial in criminal prosecutions. Many criminal cases today are resolved through plea bargaining. However, if a case proceeds to trial, the defendant must make the decision of whether they want a trial by jury or a bench trial (in which a judge decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty).
Watch the following video about the history of jury trials, and provide your opinion about the following scenario and answer all the questions:
In a recent a case in the state of Washington, a woman was arrested and faces second-degree murder charges after she allegedly killed her husband of 45 years. The couple had five daughters. The marriage had a history of domestic abuse. Read the full story about the case here.
After reading about this case, discuss your thoughts below about the benefits of plea bargaining, a jury trial, or a bench trial.
- What are some of the factors that you would consider when deciding whether this defendant should accept a plea bargain?
- In your opinion, what are the benefits of a bench trial or a jury trial?
- Do you believe that the outcome of this case would be more likely decided based on the facts or on emotion? How would knowing this affect the defendant’s decision in this case to choose between a bench trial and a jury trial?