What is a joint trial for criminal co-defendants?
When two or more people are charged with committing the same crime together, it is probable that they will go to trial together. This is because it saves the court from wasting time and costly judicial resources in having separate trials.
This doesn’t mean that each person’s case is exactly the same. Often, especially in conspiracy prosecutions, each defendant may have done something different to allegedly break the law and may be charged with different crimes. In that instance, it is particularly important for an experienced criminal defense attorney to make sure that the jury understands what their individual client is charged with and that the client is not automatically grouped together with the other co-defendants.
Joint Trials in Federal Cases for Conspiracy Charges
The most common way of bringing criminal prosecutions in Federal cases is by conspiracy charges. Federal investigations can take many years before facts and evidence are brought to a Grand Jury for Indictment. If the case goes to trial there will often be more than one defendant on trial. Sometimes there are more than 10 people on trial at the same time which can often cause confusion for the jury. An experienced criminal trial lawyer must make sure that the jury is focused on each Defendant and what those Defendants are charged with.
Exceptions to Joint Trials for Co-defendants
Sometimes the court must sever or separate the trial of co-defendants so as to insure a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. If for instance the Prosecution intends to introduce a confession of one co-defendant which implicates another co-defendant in the same crime, the trials must be separate. This is because the attorney for the implicated co-defendant cannot cross-examine or confront the evidence (confession) when the confessing co-defendant has a right to remain silent during the joint co-defendant trial.
An experienced criminal trial lawyer will recognize these issues early on in the case and will insure that a defendant’s constitutional rights are not violated by having a joint co-defendant trial.
If you’ve been charged with a crime or have been named as a co-defendant in a case, call the office of Ray Lopez at 813-221-4455.