The judge and prosecutor work together every day and are all part of the same “legal club” and may even be friends or part of the same social circle. I preferred twelve impartial jurors to judge that facts and decide what’s fair rather than a judge who may be biased in favor of the prosecutor or against pro se litigants (someone acting as their own attorney). However, each case is different, so you’ll need to evaluate for yourself or consult with an attorney whether a jury trial is the best choice for you.
Prior to the actual trial, the judge will know certain facts or allegations, some that may be prejudicial that the jury will never know. Judges are supposed to have the ability to not be persuaded by facts not in evidence, but judges are human and can be biased. Bias and prejudice are innate characteristics—often deeply ingrained and concealed from our own self-examination. The United States Supreme Court recognized this when it said that “bias or prejudice is such an elusive condition of the mind that it is most difficult, if not impossible, to always recognize its existence.” Further, the high court said, bias or prejudice can exist in someone “who was quite positive he had no bias and said that he was perfectly able to decide the question wholly uninfluenced by anything but the evidence.” Crawford v. United States, 212 U.S. 183, 196 (1909).
KSDK aired a story about prosecutors serving double duty as judges. This story underscores how unfair the municipal court system can be. One very interesting point was that prosecuting attorneys can serve as municipal judges, but not public defenders. Maybe this is just my opinion, but it seems that when a person’s main job is trying to convict criminals, there may be a bias against the defendant and in favor of fellow prosecutors. Maybe that’s why defense attorneys are not allowed to serve.
Unjust Law and Jury Nullification
Jury nullification occurs in a trial when a jury acquits a defendant, even though the members of the jury believe the defendant to be guilty of the charges. This may occur when members of the jury disagree with the law the defendant has been charged with breaking, or believe that the law should not be applied in that particular case. John Jay, the first U.S. Supreme Court chief justice said “The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy”, Georgia v. Brailsford, 3 U.S. 1 (1794).
However, in (Sparf v U.S. 156 U.S. 51, 1895), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that although juries have the right to ignore a judge’s instructions on the law, the jury shouldn’t be aware of it. The concept of jury nullification can’t be mentioned by either party to the jury or any of its members. Read the article, “Jury Nullification the Top Secret Constitutional Right“.
See the article: Jury Nullification – The Top Secret Constitutional Right
An attorney discusses the pros and cons of going to trial.