"In that case, why bother with a trial at all?"
"Because the people demand it. They enjoy watching justice triumph over evil every time. They find it comforting."
The foundation of Cardassian criminal law was built upon on demonstrating the efficiency of the Cardassian criminal investigation system. The Cardassian system of criminal justice was a post-facto inquisitorial system where the decision-maker was actively involved in investigating the facts of the case, but only after the guilty verdict was already determined. (This was contrasted with an adversarial system, where advocates represent their parties' position before an impartial adjudicator.) (DS9: "Tribunal")
Under Cardassian law, an offender was guilty before appearing in a trial. The penalty, usually death, was also predetermined. It was up to an offender to prove their innocence, but no evidence was permitted to be submitted after the verdict was reached. (DS9: "Things Past", "Tribunal", "Defiant")
The notion of public spectacle was central to the raison d'être, or reason of being, of a Cardassian criminal trial; to demonstrate to the Cardassian people the futility of behavior contrary to good order. The main purpose of a trial was to reveal how an offender's guilt was proven, and key to the productive functioning of this system was for the offender's counsel to help the offender concede the wisdom of the state. (DS9: "Cardassians", "Tribunal")
Administration of justice
The Ministry also had final authority over sentencing. For example, also in 2371, Lieutenant Thomas Riker stole the USS Defiant and committed an incursion into Cardassian space, the Orias system; an act for which Commander Sisko attempted to negotiate a sentence other than death. Gul Dukat indicated that such a sentence would need to be cleared with the Ministry, which in this case was a life sentence to be served at the Lazon II labor camp." (DS9: "Defiant")
Rights extended to non-citizens, but by the same token, the Cardassian Union viewed its jurisdiction as extending beyond its borders. For example, in 2370, Chief Miles O'Brien was arrested by Cardassian military officers acting under orders "nowhere near the Cardassian border," but the arresting officer, Gul Evek, provided assurance that his rights as defined under the Articles would be protected. (DS9: "Tribunal")
Cardassian citizens attempted to invoke Cardassian law in foreign legal systems in reflection of this view of universal jurisdiction. For example, also in 2370, Cardassian citizen Kotan Pa'Dar attempted to cite Cardassian law on Deep Space 9 while attempting to assert custody of his son, Rugal, over the Bajoran adoptive father, Proka Migdal. Proka asserted that "there is no more Cardassian law on Bajor." (DS9: "Cardassians")
However, as a counterexample, in discussing the need for non-citizens to respect Cardassian judicial procedures, Chief Archon Makbar asked, "wouldn't you ask that we respect your rules if we were in your court?" Suggesting that the Cardassian view of jurisdiction might have recognized either foreign jurisdiction or overlapping jurisdiction. (DS9: "Tribunal")
The Supreme Tribunal was the highest tribunal in the Cardassian Union. Certain information about this body was sufficiently sensitive that, in 2373, some of the closest secrets disclosed by Legate Tekeny Ghemor during his shri-tal – a traditional "death bed confession" – were regarding the Supreme Tribunal. (DS9: "Ties of Blood and Water")
A "special tribunal" was also conducted under special circumstances. While experiencing a shared subconscious experience, Odo recollected events in 2366 during the Occupation of Bajor in which a special tribunal resulted in the execution of innocent Bajorans following an assassination attempt on Gul Dukat. (DS9: "Things Past")
The Cardassian Regional Court was a Cardassian criminal court with specific jurisdiction on Bajor during the Occupation of Bajor. For example, in 2357, the Regional Court convicted Dr. Surmak Ren of terrorism resultung from the kidnapping of Gul Spumco. (DS9: "Babel")
Rules of criminal procedure
Arrest and processing
- Upon arrest, an offender was informed of their right to refuse to answer questions, but such refusal might be construed as a sign of guilt. (DS9: "Tribunal")
- Following arrest, the offender was offered an opportunity to make a confession. (DS9: "Tribunal")
- Processing involved stripping the offender, an ocular scan, and removal of a lock of hair and a first molar, on behalf of the Bureau of Identification. (DS9: "Tribunal")
- The Cardassian Union was represented by the Chief Archon who presided over the tribunal.
- The offender was represented by their conservator and advised by their nestor. The offender's legal team must be certified as officers of the Court and were usually assigned by the Court.
- The nestor was not permitted to address the Court, they were only allowed to advise the offender.
- The offender might be accompanied by their spouse, a special privilege which was extended only to them.
At the outset of a trial, the Chief Archon announced the charges against the offender, the guilty verdict, and the sentence. Following this announcement, the Chief Archon invited the offender to confess to dispense with the proceedings. Next, the offender's spouse was offered an the opportunity to dissociate themselves from the offender's actions by testifying against them. (DS9: "Tribunal")
Further witnesses – who must be certified as officers of the Court – were examined and cross-examined by the conservator and Chief Archon. Witness testimony was accepted even if the source of information might not be revealed due to reasons of national security. (DS9: "Tribunal")
The final witness to testify was the offender, who was not permitted to decline to answer questions. The testimony and the questioning was permitted to be wide ranging and not limited to the charge; lines of inquiry might have explored aggravating and mitigating factors such as a history of abuse or a history of prejudice. Following the testimony of the offender, it was expected that the conservator shall concede the verdict. (DS9: "Tribunal")