Chapter

Inside the Courtroom

in The Trial in American Life

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780226243252
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226243283 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226243283.003.0002
Inside the Courtroom

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The catalog of performers in a trial include the presiding judge, the prosecuting attorney, the defense counsel, the witness, the jury, the defendant, and the victim. Judges in an American courtroom enjoy authority unprecedented in any other aspect of democratic life, and they receive a mixture of unbounded respect and suspicion because of it. The prosecuting attorney is servant of the people but also the arm of the state with all of the power that institutional authority and organization bring. Standing in the way is the defense counsel, presumed protector and champion of the rights of the accused. The contesting advocates then present the witness, who as observer or expert can determine a trial outcome when credibly informed. Next are the jury, symbol of representative democracy and official listener until the moment of decision; the defendant, more controlled than controlling; and finally, the victim. No consideration of trials would be complete without an analysis of this new priority in the legal system. Another often forgotten element must also be reckoned with: namely, the courtroom itself.

Keywords: courtroom; presiding judge; prosecuting attorney; defense counsel; witness; jury; defendant; victim; legal system

Chapter.  18573 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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