The court went on to say that the discretion is very wide and while it might be wise for the trial judge to exercise that discrtion very sparingly. Therefore the higher court was not going to interfere with the exercise of that discretion lightly. It would only interfere if there was evidence of abuse of the discretion or an error in law. The Judicial Supreme Court also went on to state that the judge was required to state his reasons for substtituting the jury’s verdict with another verdict and the judge in the Woodward case had done so citing that:
“"the circumstances in which [Woodward] acted were characterized by confusion, inexperience, frustration, immaturity and some anger, but not malice (in the legal sense) supporting a conviction for second degree murder. " The court found that there was no error in the trial judge’s reasoning since malice was a necessary ingredient for the charge of murder and malice represented a “fine line” which distinguishes murder from “the lesser included offense of involuntary manslaughter. ”
The court went on to define the unique role of jurors in the criminal justice process and said that they: “Bring the unique perspective of laypersons, representing the wider community’s juegment of a defendant’s degree of culpability, if any for her actions. ” The public confidence in the criminal justice system relies heavily on respecting the jury’s verdict. On the other hand, the judge acted in his discretion when one takes into account the facts ot the Woodward case and compares it to cases of repeated and willful incidents of child abuse.
The obvious role of the appellate court is to review the lower court’s transcript of the trial at issue and to determine whether or not there were errors. If the appellate court finds that there have been errors then it looks to seem if the error impacted upon the ultimate outcome of the case. In this case the appellate court had determined that the judge had erred in his decision to refuse the prosecution’s request to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of involuntary manslaughter, However, that error had not unfairly prejudiced the prosecution and the appellate court dismissed that ground of appeal.
Moreover the appellate court found that the judge’s decsion to reduce the defendant’s conviction to involuntary manslaughter had not been made in error since it was in his discretion to act as he did.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts v Louise Woodward Middlesex Superior Court Criminal Case No. 97-0433 Judge Reduces Sentence in Nanny Murder Case. (November 10, 1997) Retrieved December 10, 2007 General Law of Massachusetts Massachusetts v. Woodward(n. d. ) http://www. courttv. com/trials/woodward/ Retrieved December 10, 2007 Massachusetts v Lourise Woodward: State Supreme Court Decision on Louise Woodward Case, March 1998-June 1998