Tagged: culpability

Revised ABA Criminal Justice Standards

The American Bar Association has published its Fourth Edition of the ABA Criminal Justice Standards for the Prosecution and Defense Functions, adopted by a resolution 107D in February 2015. This edition supplants the Third Edition (1993) of the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Prosecution Function and Defense Function. Among the new provisions are the following:

For the Prosecution

  • Standard 3-1.3 – The Client of the Prosecutor – explicitly stating that a victim is not a prosecutor’s client.
  • Standard 3-3.6 – When Physical Evidence with Incriminating Implications is Disclosed by the Defense – stating that “[w]hen physical evidence is delivered to the prosecutor consistent with defense function standard 4-4.7, the prosecutor should not offer the fact of delivery as evidence before a fact-finder for purposes of establishing the culpability of defense counsel’s client.”
  • Standard 3-4.3 – Minimum Requirements for Filing and Maintaining Criminal Charges – stating in subsection (d) that “[a] prosecutor’s office should not file or maintain charges if it believes the defendant is innocent, no matter what the state of the evidence.”
  • Standard 3-5.c – The Decision to Recommend Release or Seek Detention – recommending that prosecutor should favor pretrial release over detention unless detention is necessary to protect individuals or the community. Additionally, prosecutor should remain open to reconsideration of pretrial detention.
  • Standard 3-5.8 – Waiver of Rights as Condition of Disposition Agreements – requiring a prosecutor not to condition a disposition agreement on a waiver of the right to appeal the terms of a sentence, on any waiver of post-conviction claims, or a complete waiver of the right to file habeas corpus petition, fully incorporating the DOJ policy banning waiver of ineffective counsel claim as a condition to guilty plea, as discussed here.
  • Standards in Part VIII Relating to Appeals and Other Conviction Challenges
    • Standard 3-8.1 – Duty to Defend Conviction Not Absolute – requiring prosecutor to exercise one’s own independent professional judgment and discretion and thus allowing the prosecutor to decline prosecution if she “believes the defendant is innocent or was wrongfully convicted, ….”
    • Standard 3-8.3 – Responses to New or Newly Discovered Evidence or Law – placing emphasis on seeking justice by requiring prosecutors offices to develop policies and procedures to address situations in which the prosecutor learned of credible evidence ‘creating a reasonable likelihood that a defendant was wrongfully convicted or sentenced or is actually innocent, ….”
    • Standard 3-8.4 – Challenges to the Effectiveness of Defense Counsel – requiring the prosecutor to intervene if he observes that defense counsel may be ineffective.
    • Standard 3-8.5 – Collateral Attacks on Conviction

For Defense Counsel

  • Standard 4-2.3 – Right to Counsel at First and Subsequent Judicial Appearances – stating that “[a] defense counsel should be made available in person to a criminally-accused person for consultation at or before any appearance before a judicial officer, including the first appearance.”
  • Standard 4-5.4 – Consideration of Collateral Consequences – placing a requirement on the defense counsel to “identify and advise the client of collateral consequences that may arise from charge, plea or conviction.”
  • Standard 4-5.5 – Special Attention to Immigration Status and Consequences – taking standard 4-5.4 one step further by incorporating the decision of Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010) (slip opinion copy) (requiring defense counsel to advise his client of potential immigration consequences as a result of guilty plea).
  • Standard 4-9.4 – New or Newly-Discovered Law or Evidence of Innocence or Wrongful Conviction or Sentence – placing a duty on the defense counsel to act if she “becomes aware of credible and material evidence or law creating a reasonable likelihood that a client or former client was wrongfully convicted or sentenced or was actually innocent.”

Sentencing in Jodi Arias Trial

BY: Luis Felix

On March 31, 2013, Jodi Arias’ attorneys were denied the opportunity to have the death penalty taken off the table in her murder trial, as the Arizona Supreme Court rejected their petition for an appeal. Arias was convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, and is currently awaiting sentencing. However, this case is far from the typical murder case seen in news outlets across the country every day. The media has followed the Arias case heavily, casting it directly in front of the public’s eye. The gruesome nature of Alexander’s murder  – 27 stab wounds, a slit throat, and a gunshot wound to the head – captured the attention of the public in recent months. There can be no doubt that Arias’ murder of her ex-boyfriend was a particularly heinous one, and justice must be served. However, is sentencing Arias to the death penalty the appropriate remedy?

Those in favor of sentencing Arias to the death penalty focus their arguments on the brutality and excessiveness of her crime. Much like Hammurabi’s “an eye for an eye,” proponents of the death penalty argue that retribution must be sought, and the only way for Arias to pay for such a heinous crime is with her life. Those opposed to Arias receiving the death penalty argue that it is unethical, and two wrongs would not make a right. However, I would take a slightly different approach in arguing against the death sentence for Jodi Arias.

Death is the ultimate price. Although murder is among the most culpable of crimes, the murder of one victim should not receive the greatest sentence that our criminal justice system has to offer. I am not attempting to downplay the culpability of a single murder; I am examining the sentencing phase of our criminal justice system in a different light. A light that does not focus on each particular crime and each particular victim, but instead focuses on our society and the criminal justice system as a whole.

There are crimes that carry a higher level of culpability than a single murder. For example, a defendant who maliciously murders two victims, is certainly more culpable than a defendant who maliciously murders one victim. If we then sentence both defendants to death, we as a society are not distinguishing between the culpability of their crimes. As a society, we have evolved passed the European medieval times where every crime was punishable by death because we decided to distinguish between the varying culpabilities accompanying different crimes. We must stay true to this distinction and reserve the death penalty for only the most culpable of defendants. While murder certainly carries a high level of culpability, a single murder cannot be deemed as culpable as a mass murder, a serial murder spree, or a terrorist attack. While the ladder three are certainly deserving of the death penalty, the former is not and must be distinguished because it carries a lower level of culpability. Thus, a more deserving sentence for a single murder, such as the murder of Travis Alexander, would be life imprisonment without parole – not the death penalty.

Ultimately, this is merely my opinion and there are certainly compelling arguments on both sides. Above all else, this article is an invitation. It is an invitation to think, an invitation to research, and an invitation to speak your mind. Consider this an open forum to any and all who agree, and especially those who disagree. You may now take the floor.