Differentiating criminal from civil courts is a surprisingly complicated exercise. The distinction has much to do with processes and legal protections. For example, the difference between the two courts in terms of burdens of proof is readily apparent. However, differences in evidentiary principles, scope, and function of the jury and its deliberative processes, influence of constitutional protections, and eventual remedies or content and structure of verdicts can be difficult to distinguish. How these two legal forums carry out the functions of law and justice is evident when the same facts from the same case are adjudicated in the two distinct forums.
In this Application, you examine the O.J. Simpson case. O.J. Simpson was accused and tried for murder in both criminal and civil courts. The outcomes of those cases were different, in part because of the differences between the two court systems. You compare the processes followed in the criminal and civil cases, and discuss how those differences affected the outcomes of Mr. Simpson’s criminal and civil trials.
To prepare for this assignment:
Pay attention to how criminal courts work. Focus on the various processes—from initial hearings to jury deliberations, burdens, as well as the evidentiary and constitutional principles—which guide criminal proceedings.
With this in mind, review the prosecution’s and defense counsel’s closing arguments in the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, in the articles “Marsha Clark's Closing Arguments” and “Closing Argument of Johnnie Cochran (Excerpts).” Focus on how the prosecution and defense counsel zero in on the strengths of their own cases and the weaknesses of the opposition. Keep in mind that the stress in a criminal case is on the sufficiency and integrity of the evidence necessary to meet the “beyond the reasonable doubt” burden.
Article: University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. (n.d.). Marsha Clark's closing arguments. Retrieved January 21, 2010, from http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Simpson/Clarkca.htm
Article: University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. (n.d.). Closing argument of Johnnie Cochran (Excerpts). Retrieved January 21, 2010, from http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Simpson/cochranclose.html
Focus on the procedural and evidentiary aspects of how civil courts work. Also, reflect on the similarities and differences between criminal and civil cases in terms of process, burden of proof, and constitutional protection.
Review the article “Civil Trial Jury Verdict Form.” Look for the various burdens of proof for a civil case, and consider how they differ from the criminal burdens of proof.
Article: Walraven.org. (1997). Civil trial jury verdict form. Retrieved from http://walraven.org/simpson/ver_form.html
Review the civil complaint filed by the Nicole Brown Family in the article “Brown Civil Suit.” Consider the ending plea: what is sought; the remedies listed. Then reflect on how the civil process is different from the criminal process.
Article: Walraven.org. (1995). Brown civil suit. Retrieved from http://walraven.org/simpson/brn_suit.html
Based on the O.J. Simpson case, reflect on the similarities and differences between criminal and civil cases in terms of process, burden of proof, and constitutional protection.
The assignment (1–2 pages):
Compare (similarities and differences) criminal and civil cases in terms of process, burden of proof, and constitutional protection.
Explain at least one insight you gained or conclusion you drew about criminal and civil courts.