A criminal trial is a phase when the jury determines whether you have committed the crime or not. The trial’s primary aim is to argue the case and obtain a guilty verdict and the defendant’s conviction. The trial also allows the defendant to refute evidence and offer their own. After both the parties present their arguments during the trial, the jury decides whether the defendant is guilty or not.
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If you are going for your criminal trial, you must know that the trial consists of six major phases described below.
Choice of Jury
The first step in a criminal trial is the choice of the jury. The judge looks into the jury’s life experiences and ideological predispositions about the case while selecting the jury. The defendant and the prosecutor may also exclude some jurors if they believe that a particular juror may not objectively decide the case.
Once the jurors are selected, the prosecutor and the defense make their opening statements, usually without any witness or evidence. Since the prosecutor has the liability to prove the defendant’s crime, they make the first opening statement, followed by the defendant.
During the opening statements, the prosecutor presents the case’s facts and what the defendant did, why, and how. The defendant gives their version of facts to the jury.
Witness Testimony & Cross-Examination
During this stage, both sides present their key evidence in front of the jury. While the prosecutor tries to convince the jurors that the defendant committed the crime, they call experts and eyewitnesses for testification. They may also use photographs, medical reports, documents, and other physical evidence to support their claim.
The witness comes to the stand and the party who called them questions them directly to elicit information in front of the jury. After that, the opposite party questions the witness to cross-examine the facts. They try to find loopholes in the witness’s version and cast doubts. Once both the parties have presented their case, they ‘rest’ until the closing arguments.
In the closing arguments, both the prosecutor and the defendant sum up their case and recap the evidence to prove their position. This is the last chance when the prosecutor can prove the defendant’s guilt, and the defendant can argue themselves as ‘not guilty.’
After the closing arguments, the next step is jury instruction. In this process, the judge gives legal standards to the jury to decide if the defendant can be deemed guilty or not. The judge looks into the evidence and criminal charges to determine which legal standards apply to the case. Both the parties are also allowed to input and argue in this phase. Finally, the judge instructs the jury to arrive at a particular conclusion. Finally, the case goes to the jury.
Depending on the judge’s instructions, the jurors look into the case through deliberation, a process in which they try to decide whether the defendant is guilty or not. During deliberation, the jurors discuss the case through the period of hours to even several weeks. Once they conclude, their foreperson tells the judge, and the judge finally announces the verdict.
At several points during a criminal trial, your lawyer’s inability to raise a query or objection may result in your loss. That’s why you need to hire an experienced attorney not only through the trial but throughout the legal process.