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Is there a right to a jury-waived trial?

One of the more interesting debates going on in Minnesota Lawyer right now is if the state should have a say in whether or not a defendant gets a jury waived-trial. So far, we have published two letters on the issue from Minnesota State Public Defender John Stuart and one from Stearns County Attorney Janelle P. Kendall, the president-elect of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association.

Depending upon how you want to frame the issue, the question is whether:
— the defendant should have the right to a trial without a jury; or
— the state should have a right to a trial with a jury.

Right now, defendants can waive juries in favor of having a judge decide their case without regard to how the prosecutor may feel about it. The MCAA recently announced that it plans to lobby for a law change requiring the prosecutor to sign off on such waivers, sparking the recent spate of letter writing.

It’s an interesting issue — and one that both defenders and prosecutors obviously feel very strongly about.

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