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View Full Version : Can a Judge Informally Question Witnesses



Cealarenne
02-25-2012, 10:01 PM
Okay, I've got the information I need so thanks, everyone.

Okay, this sounds wrong already. What I'm after is, can a judge invite witnesses into his chambers to hear out the story? It's a point in the trial where he's come to his wits end and he calls the accused who has pleaded guilty, plus two witnesses into his chambers along with their lawyers. The lawyers have been told this is an informal 'chat' and therefore he'd rather they weren't too involved. Could this happen or would it be beyond the realms of reality? It's in the U.S. by the way, possibly Ohio but I'm prepared to move the story to fit.

Cealarenne
02-25-2012, 10:14 PM
Helloooo! Anyone? Does anyone have even a clue?

Drachen Jager
02-25-2012, 10:33 PM
Wow, a whole 13 minutes. Give it a little more time. There are some legal experts on here who can give you the right answer, but they're not on here 24/7 hitting refresh.

Depending on jurisdiction and circumstances I'd say yes. It's common in such things as family law, but I doubt you'd see it in a murder trial.

Siri Kirpal
02-25-2012, 10:40 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

If the accused has pleaded guilty, there won't be a trial.

And yes, give it a day or three before wondering where everyone is.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Cealarenne
02-25-2012, 10:44 PM
Thanks guys, and yes, I was a little premature with the hurry along. Sorry about that.

jclarkdawe
02-25-2012, 10:46 PM
I'd seen this, but was trying to figure out how to frame my answer.

Big question in my mind is why is the judge doing this. If the guy plead guilty, then all the judge is confirm that a crime occurred (prosecutor recites sufficient facts to confirm), judge makes sure defendant understands his/her rights, then judge agrees with sentence and pronounces it. Absolutely no reason I can think of for the defendant to go in chambers.

But I've done this approach in a couple of child custody cases where both parties agree that the child can go into chambers and talk with the judge in private. Both times I did it, it was without either party or the attorneys.

Depending upon the judge, juvenile cases and abuse/neglect cases can be heard in chambers. Since the participants are limited, and no spectators are allowed, some judges prefer this approach. Of course, a lot of this depends upon the physical layout of the court.

You might do this is its easier to go into chambers instead of clearing the courtroom. But based upon the facts you're presenting, I see no reason why a judge would want to go into chambers.

And now I'm going away, because I do have a life other then here.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Cealarenne
02-25-2012, 10:56 PM
I'd seen this, but was trying to figure out how to frame my answer.

Big question in my mind is why is the judge doing this. If the guy plead guilty, then all the judge is confirm that a crime occurred (prosecutor recites sufficient facts to confirm), judge makes sure defendant understands his/her rights, then judge agrees with sentence and pronounces it. Absolutely no reason I can think of for the defendant to go in chambers.

But I've done this approach in a couple of child custody cases where both parties agree that the child can go into chambers and talk with the judge in private. Both times I did it, it was without either party or the attorneys.

Depending upon the judge, juvenile cases and abuse/neglect cases can be heard in chambers. Since the participants are limited, and no spectators are allowed, some judges prefer this approach. Of course, a lot of this depends upon the physical layout of the court.

You might do this is its easier to go into chambers instead of clearing the courtroom. But based upon the facts you're presenting, I see no reason why a judge would want to go into chambers.

And now I'm going away, because I do have a life other then here.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Thank you for this. Okay, I'll clarify. The accused is a woman who is charged with bringing about the death of a 16-year-old who committed suicide, but the woman herself is mentally unstable and has possbily suffered some kind of breakdown. In the middle of questioning, she suddenly confesses that it's her fault.

Cealarenne
02-25-2012, 11:12 PM
Okay, I get the feeling this isn't going to work for my story. Thank you so much everyone for your help. I'll rework this section.

Snick
02-25-2012, 11:31 PM
Thank you for this. Okay, I'll clarify. The accused is a woman who is charged with bringing about the death of a 16-year-old who committed suicide, but the woman herself is mentally unstable and has possbily suffered some kind of breakdown. In the middle of questioning, she suddenly confesses that it's her fault.

With that sort of premise the case might not have gotten to court at all. There might be some meetings between her lawyer, the prosecutor, and whatever experts were brought in.

jclarkdawe
02-26-2012, 01:16 AM
Thank you for this. Okay, I'll clarify. The accused is a woman who is charged with bringing about the death of a 16-year-old who committed suicide This is an awfully hard charge to get a conviction on. There's a case going on in New Jersey right at the moment on this issue. SeeRutgers cyber-bullying trial under way (http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/24/justice/new-jersey-rutgers-trial/index.html?hpt=ju_c1), but the woman herself is mentally unstable This can mean so many things that to me it's meaningless. and has possbily suffered some kind of breakdown Probably not legally relevant.. In the middle of questioning, she suddenly confesses that it's her fault. Any attorney that would allow this woman to be questioned would probably be guilty of malpractice. She's a three S candidate: Sit down, shut up, and stay quiet.

There's a whole lot of legal issues you're bringing up, and my guess is to make this work is going to involve some serious bending of the facts.

But to get a confession here, I'd have her attorney having her evaluated for compentency by a forensic psychiatrist. During the evaluation, she feels a need to confess, for some strange reason. The psychiatrist then feels a need to tell people. Probably a career killer for the shrink, but you can't have everything in this world. See Lyle and Erik Menendez (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyle_and_Erik_Menendez)

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Cealarenne
02-26-2012, 02:09 AM
thank you all so much. It's starting to sound like some heavy legal research is needed but as it turns out, my agent doesn't like it so it's back to the drawing board. I'll put a note in the title so I don't waste anyone else's time. But again, thank you all. You're all fantastic.