Can a "bench trial" be fairer than a jury trial in Nevada?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jun 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

Possibly. There is no way to predict the outcome of any Nevada trial, but in some cases having a judge instead of a jury act as the trier of fact may render a more favorable verdict for the defendant.

Like it sounds, a bench trial in Nevada is where the presiding judge and not a jury renders a verdict. Everyone charged with a crime is entitled to a bench trial in Nevada no matter whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony. Jury trials are available only to defendants who face a possible sentence of more than six months. (2019 UPDATE: People charged with misdemeanor battery domestic violence in Nevada are also entitled to a jury trial.)

It is a generally-held belief in Nevada that a jury of twelve peers can deliver a fairer verdict than a judge who may either be cynical about the justice system, unable to separate the present case from similar past cases, or have a dislike of the defense attorney based on prior dealings. However, there are some circumstances which suggest that a judge would do a more just job than a jury...

If the case involves an emotionally charged issue such as child abuse or sexual assault, a jury may be too overcome with emotion to acquit the defendant even if the facts support his/her innocence. In contrast, a seasoned Nevada judge has considerable experience presiding over disturbing cases and may easily suspend his/her emotion in order to accurately apply the facts to the law. Read more about bench trials in Nevada and our article, "Can I write my own jury instructions in Nevada?"

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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