Articles Posted in Right to Jury Trial

The Sixth Amendment guarantees citizens who have been charged with a crime the right to a trial by an impartial jury. The jury selection process serves to ensure that a panel of jurors is chosen fairly. Accordingly, under Maryland criminal law, prosecutors (the state’s counsel) and defense counsel are each afforded a certain number of “peremptory” challenges to the selection of a prospective juror. Clearly, the impartiality of a jury can have a dramatic impact in the outcome of a criminal case. To ensure that this aspect of your case — as well as every issue that arises from the moment of arrest — is handled fairly and appropriately, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Counsel in a criminal case may object to a prospective juror in one of two ways:  1) asserting a challenge “for cause,” or 2) employing a “peremptory” challenge – an objection without needing to give a reason. Peremptory challenges are limited and may not be invoked on the basis of race, gender, or ethnicity. In order to determine whether a peremptory challenge is fair and legitimate, Maryland courts apply a three-step process established by the United States Supreme Court in the Batson v. Kentucky decision.

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A defendant in a criminal case has certain identifiable rights under Maryland state law, such as the right to a trial by jury. As we discussed in a recent blog post, a defendant may elect to waive the right to a jury trial at any time before the trial begins. But there are certain important criteria that must be met before a court may accept the defendant’s waiver (if he or she so chooses). It is important to know and thoroughly understand your rights to be able to make an informed decision throughout the process. If you have been arrested or charged with committing a crime, you are encouraged to seek the help of an experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible.

Just two months after the decision in Nalls & Melvin v. State, a consolidated case in which the court addressed the waiver of the right to a jury trial and the requirements to preserve an appeal of same, the court once again addressed the issue in another recent case. Here, defendant was convicted of six counts of theft and “theft scheme” between $1,000 and $10,000, and sentenced to ten years of incarceration with all but seven years suspended as well as five years of probation. The only issue on appeal in this case relates to the defendant’s waiver of the right to a jury trial under Rule 4-246. Specifically, the question concerns whether the trial court complied with the requirements under the Rule.

According to the transcript of the proceedings, the court asked the defendant if he freely and voluntarily decided to waive his right to a jury trial. The defendant indicated yes and the court responded in pertinent part, “I’m going to rule that you have knowingly and intelligently waived your right to a jury trial.” The defendant did not object to the court’s ruling and the trial proceeded before the court. As mentioned above, the defendant was convicted of various counts of theft and he appealed, arguing primarily that the court failed to state on the record that he voluntarily waived the right to a trial by jury. While the State acknowledged that the Rule requires strict compliance, it nonetheless argued that appellant made a voluntary waiver.

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