Bench Trial vs. Jury Trial... What's your pick?

Asked about 2 years ago - Southfield, MI

My 16 yr old is being tried as an adult for Armed Robbery... Never in trouble before. We finally got the survellance tape, and it shows that my son did NOT have a weapon or object. He's on the tape plain & clear with NOTHING in his hands (he just runs off with someone's cell phone), but the prosc will NOT drop the Armed charge, for she says other things act as "evidence" ... which blows me away, considering we have a tape of him NOT committing an armed robbery! ...Anyway, we're going to take it to trial..... DO YOU PREFER A BENCH TRIAL, OR A JURY TRIAL?? note: My son is african am, and will be tried in a white court/county (hate to say it, but this matters)... PLEASE GIVE ME YOUR PREFERENCE, AND WHY

Attorney answers (7)

  1. Scott Matthew Aaronson

    Pro

    Contributor Level 13

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    Answered . The obvious very important factor that was left out of this decision is who the judge is. There are disadvantages and advantages to both. Some might argue that if technically not guilty, perhaps a judge would better be able to follow the law then a layman who sees that a person is guilty besides for a mere technicality. With a jury trial however, the state has to convince all 12 jurors that you are guilty instead of one judge.

    Oakland County is a conservative area filled with a majority of caucasians and you are right to say that this matters. A jury in Frank Murphy (downtown detroit), will likely be a lot different than a jury in Oakland County.

    In short, you need to follow the advice of your lawyer, nobody can answer this question based on the limited information you gave here.

    Attorney Scott Aaronson
    877-I-CAN-WIN
    Free Consultations

  2. Daniel P. Hilf

    Contributor Level 15

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    Answered . There is not enough information to answer your question. Who is his Oakland County Circuit Court Judge?

    WIth regard to the lack of evidence: What is the alleged other evidence? Was a preliminary examination held? If so, did the District Court Judge find probable cause to bind the case over to Circuit Court? Are there any co-Defendant's involved in the case?

    Even if your son wants a bench trial, the Judge and the Prosecutor's office also have to allow the waiver of the right to jury trial. If either the Judge or Prosecutor does not agree to a bench trial, a jury trial will occur absent a resolution of the case through a plea, plea bargain, or a dispositive motion that is granted by the Court to dismiss the case.

    Good luck. Hopefully your son has a great lawyer who is experienced in litigating cases in Oakland County.

  3. Jonathan Andrew Paul

    Contributor Level 10

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    Answered . This is a question that you need to discuss with your son's attorney. I am assume he has a court appointed attorney - as another poster said, the prosecution has a right to a jury trial.

    As a former Oakland County prosecutor, I would have a long conversation with your attorney about the prosecution's current offers on the table - it appears that you're intent on going to trial, but there is always some risk with a trial - if the prosecution is offering an appealing reduction, it is always something to consider.

    If your son is interested in retaining counsel going forward, feel free to contact me for a free consultation.

  4. Robert David Richman

    Contributor Level 16

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    Answered . It really depends on the judge and the evidence. This is something you need to discuss with your lawyer. Typically you have a better shot convincing a jury than a jaded judge, but it all depends on the circumstances.

    This answer is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as the practice of law in any... more
  5. James S. Lawrence

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    Answered . If there was a preliminary exam in district court, then the attorney can file a Motion to Quash in circuit court, asking for dismissal on the basis of insufficient evidence. By making that motion, and seeing the judge's handling of it, you might get a good idea of how the judge might be on a bench trial. It is perhaps more important to know of how that judge has handled other cases in the past. Even with all that knowledge, the attorney would still have to use his best judgement, and might turn out to be wrong anyway.

    There are some judges at Oakland Circuit I would gladly take a bench trial with, and others I would be reluctant to take a bench trial with, and others that I would not know well enough to say.

    Contact me at 248-399-6930 for a free consultation. You and I do not have an attorney-client relationship formed... more
  6. Anthony Della Pelle

    Contributor Level 4

    Answered . In many, if not most, cases a bench trial is just a long, drawn out guilty plea. There are exceptions and in a few courtrooms a bench trial is exactly what you want. Who your judge is will answer 90% of your question. Discuss with your attorney the judge's temperament, patience and reputation.

    Anthony Della Pelle, Esq.
    586-944-8735

  7. Gary Francis Kennedy II

    Contributor Level 11

    Answered . Was a preliminary exam held? I believe based on the information that a motion should be filed way before this case goes to trial to try to dismiss the case but it still maybe tough. Also I prefer jury trials over bench trials but still every case needs to be evaluated based on the facts.

    Also there are other variables to armed robbery that may be present based on evidence the prosecution has. Armed Robbery can still be charged and prosecuted without actually being armed. The weapon could even be fake but still appear to be a weapon. The best two examples are a finger pointed out in a pocket like a gun but concealed and a toy gun. Good Luck.

    Kennedy Law Office, PLLC
    586-580-1942
    Free Consultations

    Disclaimer: This is general advice and does not create an attorney client relationship. Please consult with an attorney about your legal rights each and every time. This advice is based off of limited information and your situation may be different then perceived in this post.

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