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Analysis: the US Judicial System

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Analysis: the US Judicial System


There will be no special treatment for Dominique Strauss Khan despite his eminent position in European politics and on the financial world stage.

In a New York court he sat on a bench alongside petty criminals and a throng of photographers took his picture – pictures that have been seen around the world.

Americans have a constitutional right to freedom of expression; it’s a fundamental principal in American law. It’s also a legal right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Stages of the American judicial system:

The first step is the complaint. The complaint is immediately recorded by the police and then referred to the prosecutor’s office.

At this stage, known as the ‘reading the indictment,’ a judge decides if the accused is to be remanded in custody or released on bail.

If the accused pleads guilty an agreement is made between the defence and prosecution on a lighter sentence. If not, it is referred to the grand jury.

The grand jury is made up of between 12 and 23 members of the public who listen to the arguments of the prosecutor and possibly those of the alleged victim and the accused.

After deliberation, they decide whether the case should go forward. The official indictment is served by a supreme court and the trial is the last step.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s charges of sexual assault are punished heavily in the U.S.

His defence lawyer – Benjamin Brafman – who was part of the team that successfully defended pop singer Michael Jackson in 2005 – has to clear his client’s name.

Strauss-Kahn is now being held in protective custody in an infamous jail. If guilty he could face up to 75 years in prison.

If there is a trial and he is convicted of all charges he will receive the maximum sentence.

At any moment he may change his plea and plead guilty. If this happens an agreement would be negotiated with the prosecution, which will avoid a trial.

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