Re: What justification is there to keep facts from a jury?
Shows like Law and Order and The Practice are rife with cases where critical pieces of information is kept from a jury on the basis of a technality leading to either a false conviction, or the release of a guilty man.
In general, shows such as "Law and Order" and "The Practice," although better than some of their predecessors (e.g. "L.A. Law" or "Perry Mason"), still don't do a very good job of exploring the nuances of courtroom procedure.
One disturbing case involved a man who was convicted of choking his girlfriend to death during sex. He has been charged with this three times before with different girls. But in the previous incidents, the conviction was either sealed information and thus not admissable in court, occured during his juvinile years and was thus not admissable in court, or he there wasn't enough evidence to start a trail. Thus the jury being ignorant of all these previous occurances felt that it seemed unlikely and let him go to do it again.
I don't know if you're describing a television plot or a real case, but there are reasons for keeping information such as this out of a case. For instance, if the defendant had only been charged
with prior crimes (but not convicted), such evidence typically would not be admissible. Likewise, juvenile records are sealed primarily for policy reasons (we, as a society, believe that juveniles are, in a sense, less responsible
for their actions -- so a defendant's prior acts as a juvenile are not considered indicative of his character as an adult). On the other hand, I can't imagine a situation where a criminal defendant's prior criminal verdicts would be sealed
(maybe that's one of those Hollywood plot twists that have no counterpart in the real world).
I used to hope this was a limited occurance or one limited to tv shows, but facts tell me otherwise.
Martha Stewart's recent conviction for lying about something that wasn't illegal is just one example.
A recent article I read entitled Kobe's Beef oddly enough from Maxim presented a mountain of factual information that is critical to either the prosecution or the defence that the jury will not be told because of one techincality or another. The evidence from both sides is very significant but none of it will ever reach the jury.
Those technicalities, in many instances, are known by another name: "constitutional rights."
In addition, the jury can't even be told that since Colorado makes no distinction between serial rapists, child molestation, and incidents of date rape, a conviction of a class 3 violation will land Kobe in jail for atleast 20 years without parole, and likely for much of the remainder of his life.
Is there a reason why one third-degree sexual assault should be treated differently from another?
So I ask again, what possible justification is there for simply not presenting all the established facts to the jury, all the information regarding what these facts could mean, and letting them make their own judgment?
Because some evidence is deemed too prejudicial. Because some evidence is obtained illegally. Because some evidence, if admitted, would have detrimental effects on society in general. Because some evidence is inherently unreliable.