a reply to: TheRedneck
What the hell... I'm not busy right now...
The way the law works in criminal cases is this: the government, through a legal representative (usually a District Attorney or Attorney General)
believes a crime has been committed... let's say a bank robbery. The DA or AG assign investigators from the Police Department or state investigative
agency to investigate the crime. If they come back to the DA or AG with evidence showing someone is guilty, then the DA or AG calls a Grand Jury.
The Grand Jury is 12 people selected from the jury pool (usually registered voters). The DA or AG shows the Grand Jury all their evidence and the
Grand Jury talks it over and decides if they think there is enough evidence to prosecute the accused. If they think there is enough evidence, the
Grand Jury indicts
the accused. That means the Grand Jury formally accuses the accused of the crime so the case can go to court. If there is no
indictment, the accused cannot be prosecuted.
If there is an indictment, the DA or AG may ask the Police Department to arrest the accused. Sometimes they do; sometimes they just serve them papers.
That depends on the crime. The indictment is sent to the court that has jurisdiction, and the court schedules a hearing. At that hearing, the accused
shows up and formally responds to the charges. He/she can plead "guilty as charged" and the judge will convict and schedule a sentencing hearing;
he/she can plead "not guilty: and the judge will schedule a trial and set bail if needed; he/she can plead "no contest" (meaning they don't admit
guilt but they won't fight the accusation) and the judge will schedule a sentencing hearing.
If there is a trial, the DA or AG, represented by a team of lawyers, presents their evidence to the court. This includes witnesses. Each witness is
questioned first by the prosecutor, then the defense lawyer gets to question them. This can go on for a few turns until both lawyers are finished, and
the next witness is called. When the prosecutor is out of witnesses, they rest their case... this means they are finished trying to prosecute.
Then the defense lawyers get to call their witnesses and the same thing happens again. The defense lawyers start the questioning, then the prosecuting
lawyers ask their questions. When all the witnesses are called, the defense rests.
Then the jury, who have been listening the whole time, go back to a conference room and deliberate... a fancy word for argue back and forth about the
case. They take votes as they choose until they all agree one way or another on a "guilty" or "not guilty" verdict. If they simply cannot all agree on
a verdict, after a while, the judge may declare a mistrial, which means the whole damn court thing starts all over again with a new judge, new jurors,
If the verdict is "not guilty," the accused is free to go. Doesn't matter what the judge thinks... the jury determines guilt. If the verdict is
"guilty," the judge schedules a sentencing hearing. In either case, the jury is dismissed and get to go home. The judge determines the sentence once
the jury determines guilt. Sometimes with minor crimes the accused will waive their right to a jury trial and the judge will determine guilt, but
everyone accused of a crime is entitled to a jury trial and in more serious crimes cannot even waive that right.
Now, the President or a Federal Judge is a special case; the President cannot be indicted for a crime, because he is the top law enforcement person in
the country. A Federal Judge cannot be indicted for a crime because that opens the door for law enforcement to threaten them over their decisions.
Both are, yes, "above the law." So we use impeachment instead of indictment. The House of Representatives acts like the DA/AG and the Grand Jury
rolled into one. They investigate any crimes (that is what "oversight" is all about) and if they think there is enough evidence they impeach.
Impeachment is like an indictment, but with a few simple distinctions: impeachment cannot lead to prison time, for instance, only to removal from
That's why it is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that a private citizen can be "impeached." A private citizen cannot be removed from public office
because there is no public office to remove them from. That's like saying you are going to "foreclose" on a homeless person... there's nothing to
foreclose on! They're homeless!
In both indictments and impeachments, no conviction has occurred for anything. No one is pronounced guilty. Both are nothing more than formal
If a public official is impeached by the House of Representatives, there is no court to send the impeachment to, so it is sent to the Senate. The
Senate becomes the court, and the Senators become the jury. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court becomes the judge in the trial. The House appoints
Managers who act as the lawyers for the DA/AG, and the accused hires lawyers just like a normal court case.
The Senate does not have to follow the normal rules of court, but they usually do to some degree. The process is still similar to a normal court.
Evidence is shown, witnesses can be called, etc. Just like a judge does not determine guilt, the Chief Justice does not determine guilt. The Senators
do that. One other difference is that the Senators do not all have to agree on a verdict. If 2/3 or more vote to convict, the accused is convicted and
removed from office. If at the end of the trial that has not happened, the verdict is "not guilty" and the accused is released without penalty. There
is no "mistrial." The trial goes on as long as the Senate wants it to.
It requires, according to the present rules of the Senate, only a simple majority to decide to take a vote, end the trial, call a witness, or anything
like that. Only conviction requires the 2/3 supermajority, and that requirement is not subject to Senate rules... it is in the Constitution.
Hopefully this will explain the process to a few people and stop some of the ridiculous posting that has been occurring...