In theory, the court process is a mechanism used to filter out the truth in any legal controversy. Consequently, this truth will be used to render a decision that will achieve justice – that is, giving every person his or her due. In reality, however, a legal battle in court is often adversarial where each side defends its case to the fullest extent while demolishing that of the other party (Module 3, Page 5). That is why the opposing interests of each side are ultimately evaluated and adjudged by an impartial third party – a judge or a jury as the case may be.
The merits of each case will have to be sifted through and analyzed by the court in order to exclude any and all irrelevant matters while focusing only on the genuine legal issues. With this under consideration, we will see that a court process is a cooperative endeavor whether the parties like it or not. Each party involved contributes to the ascertainment of the truth of the matter and the determination of the proper course of action. Like any other case, a criminal case is a presentation of different public and private interests (Module 3, Page 6).
First of all, the State has the interest of preventing and punishing criminal behavior and hopefully rehabilitating the criminal (Module 3, Page 11). Secondly, the injured party has the interest of being indemnified or compensated for the damage done to him or her (Module 3, Page 12). Finally, the accused has the interest of preserving his or her life, liberty and property and protecting them from judicial confiscation (Module 3, Page 4). All these interests are addressed based on one single factor: the truth. The court’s duty is to make the truth known so that these interests may be satisfied in accordance with law.
Those who suffered must be compensated and those who are not guilty must be set free. These goals and ideals will never be met unless the truth will be obtained. That is why the court must be vigilant in understanding any legal problem presented before it without being distracted by any courtroom drama each side might attempt to execute. For each side of a case, there has to be a fierce defense so that nothing will be left out in the ultimate analysis by the court. The accused must be represented by his counsel in order to provide him with all legal defenses available.
The defense must ensure that any circumstance which serves to mitigate or cast doubt on the guilt of the accused will be presented in court for its appreciation (Module 3, Page 4). The defense must ensure that the accused is offered the fullest opportunity to defend himself in court and that both his procedural and substantive rights are being protected completely. Thus, the defense may not only question the commission of the crime but also the evidence presented and the manner by which such evidence was acquired.
Witnesses must be examined and cross-examined to show that their testimonies as well as they themselves are credible. Object evidence must be shown to be relevant and acquired through legitimate means without violating the constitutional rights of the accused. The defense must also present any mitigating factors that might serve the interest of the accused by negating his guilt or reducing the penalties he must face. The accused might be granted certain legal considerations like insanity, minority or self-defense to show that the criminal behavior could not be completely attributable to him.
The prosecution, on the other hand, must be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the alleged crime. The duty of the prosecution is not to win the case but to aid the court in determining the true facts of the case. It cannot be stressed enough that the prosecution does not only have the duty to show the guilt of the accused but also to recommend the dismissal of the case if it finds that such guilt does not exist or is under reasonable doubt (Module 3, Page 10). Thus, the prosecutor must be able to prove each and every element of the crime.
Should it fail to do so, no conviction will materialize. All in all, the court process is an interplay of interests that lead to a legal cooperation in ascertaining the truth. Although each side of the case often seeks to protect only its own interests, the whole court proceeding seeks to determine which of these interests must be satisfied under the law. No matter how adversarial the process might seem, the final determination will always depend upon the impartial third party – the judge or the jury. It will be the duty of the court to balance the rights and interests of the parties (Module 3, Page 1).
The value of having an adversarial system is to guarantee that each side will present all relevant facts that will lead to a more accurate determination of the case. Each side will serve its purpose in adding to the court’s knowledge. The defense may plead all it wants and present the most theatrical advocacy possible. The prosecution may be fierce and loud in all its righteous glory. In the end, it will still be the court that will make the final determination based on the merits of the case and no form of hocus-pocus or horseplay must be allowed to corrupt that which is most important to achieve justice – the truth.