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Florida Shooting Trial: Differences Between US And UK Legal Systems Stark

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Shawn Tyson is allegedly to have shot British students James Kouzaris and James Cooper while they were on holiday in Florida
Shawn Tyson is allegedly to have shot British students James Kouzaris and James Cooper while they were on holiday in Florida

For Britons watching the trial of Shawn Tyson – who stands accused of murdering British tourists James Kouzanis and James Cooper while they were on holiday in Florida – many will have seen more than hint of a US courtroom drama.

A TV star judge, power-dressing lawyers, plea deals, and police who threatened witnesses they would "f*** them up" if they failed to tell the truth, the case will have seemed more akin to an episode of Law & Order.

The trial has served to highlight some of the differences between the US and UK's legal systems.

While some thought less than two weeks was brief for such a high-profile trial, several days were taken up with the prolonged process of jury selection.

Over three days of questioning, speculating and tactical decisions, a pool of 145 was whittled down to 12.

Potential jurors were asked for their views on the case, on contentious areas like gun crime, their reaction to media coverage, and if they could set their views aside to try the case. Any who could not were out.

Once the trial started, its high-profile status was clear - a second metal detector on the way into court, no mobile phones allowed, and cameras and photographers recording each moment inside.

But cameras are nothing new for trial judge Rick de Furia.

A former actor in Harrison Ford's courtroom drama Presumed Innocent, he became a judge in 2002.

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Prosecutors Karen Fraivillig, a glamorous 65-year-old, and Ed Brodsky, who is running to be state attorney, took on power dressing public defender Carolyn Schlemmer and her colleague Michael Gish.

The drama was clear, with Mr Brodsky strolling across the courtroom to point at Shawn Tyson, naming him as the killer.

The word "objection" was probably the most common throughout the five days of evidence, with a frequent request to "approach the bench".

At one point, as an argument between Ms Schlemmer and Ms Fraivillig saw emotions run high, Judge de Furia resorted to calling for "time out" between the women.

Many of the witnesses were from The Courts, the tough neighbourhood where the murders took place, and many had struck deals with the state attorney's office to have their sentences or charges for other crimes reduced in exchange for their evidence.

Others, such as Wanda Farrior and Roger Shavers, were given benefits in exchange for testifying - getting help to move house.

Some were scared into finally "ratting out" their friend, with the court hearing of the confrontational interview style used by police.

One witness was told to tell the truth, or the detective would "f*** you up seriously".

According to the prosecution, witnesses faced reprisals for their testimonies. Many admitted they had been branded "snitches" and on Monday, Ms Fraivillig said some people connected to the case had been insulting witnesses in the courthouse.

After the second day of evidence last Friday, Tyson's sister Samantha Huffman was arrested after posting comments on Facebook about one of the witnesses. She has been charged with retaliating against a witness.

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