Your Jan. 2 editorial “Prosecutors’ folly,” highlighted proposed legislation that would give prosecutors the right to seek jury trials.
Defendants have a constitutional right to a jury trial, consistent with the belief that jury trials are fundamental to a fair judicial system. But the right to a fair trial should be afforded all parties, not just criminal defendants.
Allowing the prosecution the right to a jury trial puts the state on an equal footing with criminal defendants, without infringing on defendants’ constitutional rights. Neither the U.S. nor the Ohio constitution recognizes a right to a trial decided by a judge. The proposed change is unlikely to generate a tremendous increase in jury trials.
Prosecutors, like defense attorneys, recognize that some cases are more easily and quickly tried by a single person, rather than by a jury.
The criminal appellate process is an additional reason to support the prosecution’s right to jury trials. Ohio permits virtually all criminal defendants to appeal judgments against them, so error at a defendant’s expense may be corrected on appeal.
In contrast, the prosecution has no right to appeal an acquittal. A defendant who is acquitted cannot be retried, so errors at the prosecution’s expense are at best uncorrected and at worst treated as precedents in other cases.
Permitting the prosecution the right to a jury trial will help prevent the economic, social, and judicial costs of these uncorrected errors.
Editor’s note: The writer is an assistant Lucas County prosecutor.