I am writing a story that involves a major courtroom scene. I have never been to court and have no intent on being a lawyer anytime soon, so I'm not that knowledgable on how things work. Especially in the Wizarding world, which is what I'm referencing.
I know that, from the Lexicon, that the accused is allowed witnesses, and another person to represent them. In example, in OotP, Dumbledore was Harry's representative, and Mrs. Figg was his witness. So . . . for Avery [the death eater accused of murder], in my story he wouldn't have a representative, seeing as how he can't get any other DEs to come and plea for him or they'd be put into prison as well. So, he'd just represent himself, right? Just speak when they asked him questions, instead of allowing someone else to answer them?
-What I have happening in my story is the Chief Warlock asking the questions to the accused, Avery. It is an OC. Would he just be firing off questions, calling up witnesses himself, asking them questions as well and whatever he needs to know? Would the Chief Warlock, or an Auror he uses, whichever, force the accused to drink Veritaserum, and then ask him if they had murdered, reading off a list of people?
Would there be some form of trial before the trial? How they plead? Of course, Avery is going to plead 'not guilty'. I seem to remember this in movies, but I may be wrong. Also, if there is, would the full WGamot be there for it?
What is Avery, the Death Eater's, first name? I checked the Lexicon, but they didn't have it. Does this mean I have free reign? If reign is free, suggestions?
Would they use Veritaserum in court? In front of everyone to watch to get the truth out of the criminal? If not, is there something to counteract the effects of the potion, as to why they wouldn't use it? If not, how could the WGamot get them to tell the court the truth?
Would the full Wizengamot be used for three murderers, Death Eaters, and would they be tried seperately?
For the amount of questions, I apologize. Hopefully someone can help! Thanks!
The procedure is the Wizengamot isn't particularly clear, because not only does it not adhere closely to the Muggle English legal system, but there seem to be large disparities in procedure in the trials we see in GOF and OOTP. In GOF, there are, as I recall, about 200 people present, and there are implications in Bagman's trial that there is a public gallery of sorts. There are also references to a jury, who are not mentioned as being members of the Wizengamot. In OOTP, however, there are only the fifty Wizengamot members present, who vote on the verdict. Like you mentioned, it appears that the examination of witnesses is primarily done by the Chief Warlock, making it apparently more like a coroner's inquest than a true trial. Whilst Dumbledore represents Harry in OOTP, there's strictly nothing to suggest that a Defendant, rather than representing himself or having a friend/family member do it, couln't have formal, legal representation.
I figured it might help if I set out the standard procedure for a criminal, jury trial under English law. I will prefix this though by saying that criminal isn't my field, so there may be the odd, minor inconsistency in this.
The plea will have most likely been indicated at pre-trial hearings, but will be formally be taken at the start of the trial (in the absence of the jury). The jury will then be sworn in (there's no jury selection in English law).
The prosecution opens the case with an opening speech and then calls their first witness. The witness is sworn in and then examined-in-chief by the prosecuting counsel. Examination-in-chief involves solely non-leading questions (opened ended questions - what, when, where, why, etc), apart from on matters which aren't disputed. Then the defence cross-examines the witness, using leading questions (e.g. 'Isn't it correct that you normally wear glasses?' 'It was dark, wasn't it?' - essentially questions that demand a yes/no answer). The prosecution can then re-examine on anything new that arose in cross-examination if necessary.
This process is repeated for each prosecution witness in turn. Then the defence call their witnesses, starting with the Defendant first (the Defendant is under no compulsion to give evidence if he doesn't want to, but the jury are permitted to draw adverse inferences from his failure to testify).
After the defence have called all their witnesses, first the prosecution then the defence give a closing speech. Then the judge gives his summing up (where he directs the jury how to address the points of law that have arisen), and the jury retire to consider their verdict. If after a couple of hours, they can't reach a unanimous verdict they will be told that they can then reach a majority verdict of ten out of twelve.
They return and the jury foreman delivers the verdict. If it's a 'guilty' verdict, the judge will then move to sentencing or adjourn for pre-sentence reports.
The Wizengamot doesn't appear to function exactly like this, but hopefully that might give you at least a loose framework to work with.
As for Veritaserum, I'm not sure. A large part of me wants to recoil in horror and cling to an oath being sufficient, but I wouldn't put it past the Ministry, although there was no evidence of it in the GOF DE trials that Harry sees in the Pensieve.
I think for murder it would almost certainly, given it's generally treated as the most grievous crime, require the full Witzengamot.
If the three DE's were being tried for the same murder/connected murders then they'd be tried together (as with the Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jr in GOF), but if the offences are unconnected, and the only connection is that all three are DEs, then they'd be tried separately.
Hannah, you're a saint.
I really appreciate how you went through all of the court details for me--- they were very detailed, and even though I know it's a Wizarding hearing, but I may just include a few details of a regular trial. I will also include a part of a pre-trial as well.
One more question--- as I said, no knowledge whatsoever, do I possess of this, beside the fact of what Hannah told me. How do you govern which is the defense and prosecution sides?
I've copied and pasted this in a word file for later reference. You really don't know how much you've helped me, Hannah dear, thank you so very much.
The distinction between the defence and prosecution is simply that the prosecution essentially is the state (so in this case the Ministry) and the defence represents the person who is accused. It's the prosecution who have to prove the their case beyond reasonable doubt, because the Defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven otherwise. The Defendant could technically offer no evidence and just sit back and hope that the prosecution's case is weak enough that he is still found not guilty, but it's more usual for a Defendant to undermine the prosecution case, either by undermining the evidence put forwards by the prosecution (e.g. demonstrating that identification evidence is weak because the witness was a long way away and the lighting was poor), so as to put reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury, or by actively contradicting the prosecution evidence (e.g. with an alibi).
Hope that made sense. Any more questions you have on this, feel free to yell.
All right, all right. I may have a few more questions in the next few days as I write this, so I just might have to yell. Thanks so very much for your help, again, Hannah. I feel as if I really learned something today!
I just wanted to clear up the Veritaserum question. Jo answered this on her site.
Hope it helps.
Thanks so much, Analisa. I'm going to go back and rewrite some things--- it sounds so much clearer now that Veritaserum not be used. Another question I just came across: Would the prosecutor, during the case, be allowed to talk to someone about it that was involved? Say, a family member of one of the victims of a murder? Would the prosecutor be allowed to talk to that person during the trial, while it went on, and give them information about it, what they know about it or hear, and give that information clearly, and not get into trouble?
You guys are helping me more than you know. Thanks.
Trials are open to the public to attend (except in very specific cases where there's issues that involve matters like national security or child protection. So a victim's family member could, and quite commonly does, choose to sit in the public gallery and watch the trial. As a result, there shouldn't be anything untoward about the prosecution passing on information about the course of the trial to them, so long as nothing confidential is released.
However, this changes drastically if the family member is to be a witness in the trial. In that case they aren't allowed to sit in or be told anything about the how the trial is progressing until after they've given their evidence, so that it's not tainted by anything that's come out of another witness' evidence.
Lord Great Chamberlain
Just as an addition to that, a judge can at any point of any criminal case opt to sit in camera - that is 'in chambers' (as a sign shows on the doors to the court room) to discuss the case with the legal teams, if this is the case all spectators and jurors are excluded from the room.
Originally Posted by h_vic
On the matter of passing of information, by the defence or prosecution, it is not really tolerated by most judges while court is in session from those cases I've seen. A barrister/solicitor isn't there to advise during trial but to advocate.
The barrister/solicitor and anyone else could be held in contempt of court and also gain a reputation for a breach of etiquette, also in many modern court rooms, the public gallery is a separate section to the side of the court room, making the passing of information verbal or otherwise impossible without disrupting proceedings, which will ipso facto ire the judge.
Anything that needs to be cleared up, advised or otherwise takes place outside of the courtroom after the session has ended.
This is experience from of visiting a number of courts in Oxford and London over a number of years.
How any of this is translated into a wizarding court of sorts is a very interesting area though.
So the family member is not allowed to sit in the trial at all if a witness until they've given their statement. What about if the lawyer knows that the person is going to be called upon as a witness first? Can that witness, a family member, be inside the courtroom from the trial's start, because no other witness will be testify before them and taint their own evidence against the accused? They would only hear the opening statement. Is that viable and believable?
Also, can the witness ask for the accused to be removed from the court while they tell their evidence? In fear that it will harm someone else that the witness may know by the accused or friend of the accused?