The Trial by Jury Process
If you are facing a trial, you have the right to represent yourself in court. The process can be overwhelming, though, and many people choose to let a criminal defense attorney represent them. You can connect with an attorney in your area by filling out the free online evaluation form on this page or calling 877-445-1059 today.
The Jury Selection Process
In most criminal trials, cases are argued in front of a jury. The judge, prosecutor and criminal defense attorney will question potential jurors about issues related to the case. Through this questioning process, some potential jurors will be eliminated. Eventually, the jurors and alternates will be seated for the trial.
Opening Statements by the Prosecution and Defense
After a fair and impartial jury is chosen, the criminal trial begins with opening statements.
Since the state has the burden of proof in criminal cases, the prosecutor makes the first statement. The defense will then have the option of making an opening statement or waiting to deliver an opening statement after the prosecution rests its case.
Criminal defense lawyers usually opt to deliver opening statements immediately after the prosecutor’s opening statements so that jurors will have the defense’s view in mind while the prosecution presents its case.
After the opening statement or statements are presented, each side will have the opportunity to present their case to the jury.
The Prosecution’s Case
The prosecution brings its case against the defendant first. During this time, evidence is presented to the jury, and the prosecution’s witnesses provide testimony. The criminal defense lawyer may cross-examine any witnesses that the prosecution brings to the case.
The Defense’s Case
When the prosecution rests, the criminal defense lawyer presents evidence to the jury. If the prosecution has a weak case, a motion may be made at this time to dismiss the case due to insufficient evidence. If this motion is denied, the criminal defense lawyer will go forward with the defense.
The defendant may testify as a witness on his or her own behalf. However, doing so gives the prosecution the opportunity to cross-examine and attempt to discredit the testimony, and many defense attorneys don’t recommend it, even if the defendant is innocent.
After the prosecution and criminal defense lawyer have rested their cases, each side will have the opportunity to make a closing argument. The defense lawyer delivers the first closing argument, and may use this time to explain to the jurors that the evidence is insufficient to support a criminal conviction. Then the prosecution delivers a closing argument to the jury in support of conviction.
The Jury Retires to Deliberate
After the closing arguments, the judge will read specific instructions to the jury outlining the legal standards necessary to decide if the defendant is to be found guilty or not guilty. The jury then retires (leaves the courtroom) to deliberate the case.
In most states, all jurors in criminal cases must agree on guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to convict the defendant. If reasonable doubt of guilt exists, the defendant is entitled by law to a verdict of “not guilty.” If all jurors cannot reach a unanimous decision, the jury is “hung,” and the case may be dismissed or start over from jury selection.
Contact a Local Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are facing criminal charges, contact a local criminal defense lawyer right away. A lawyer can speak with you about the specifics of your case and develop a plan to deal with your criminal charge.
Connect with a criminal defense lawyer near you by filling out our free online evaluation form or calling 877-445-1059 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation today.
The above summary of trial procedure is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. For the latest information on criminal trials, speak to a criminal defense attorney in your area.