Legal Studies 3080

Section 3 - The Trial

Lesson 1 - The Courtroom and the Jury

The Adversary System

Have you ever heard courtroom lawyers (or as they are more correctly called, litigation lawyers ) referred to as hired guns? It is not a very flattering description, but in a way it fits.

People going to a criminal trial, remember, are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty; and they have the right to hire lawyers - legal professionals - whose job it is to do everything legally within their power to win their client's cases (or, failing that, to minimize the penalties they will pay). This can be difficult for lawyers who find themselves defending people they believe to be guilty, but lawyers who would not do their very best for their clients would be, in effect denying those clients a fair and open trial - and the fundamental right of being considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

This way of going about a trial is called the adversary system because it involves two opposing forces - adversaries - fighting it out before an impartial third party. In criminal cases, of course, one side is the Crown, in the person of the Crown prosecutor (or Crown counsel ) representing the citizens of Canada; the other side is the defendant (or the accused) and his or her lawyer, called the defense counsel. As you already know, the onus is on the Crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused not only committed the actus reus of the crime for which he or she is accused but also had the necessary mens rea.