A stressed out man in the courtroom.

What Does the Trial Phase of a Criminal Case Include?

Criminal cases can long be long and arduous, requiring several stages in order to carry out justice properly. Here’s how the typical case goes along:

Picking a Jury

In most cases, the first step is to pick a jury, for which both the plaintiff and the defendant will go through various potential jurors, excluding those that they do not see fit. The selection procedure has to be on the basis of facts and with proper decorum, with clear definitions on how a specific juror can be excluded from the hearing.

Their judgment can be challenged on a non-discriminatory basis only or based on whether they’re unable to be completely objective in the case. The attorneys will ask the jurors questions to determine the aforementioned judgment.

Opening Statements

The opening statements consist of dialogue from the prosecutor speaking on the government’s side and one from the defense’s end. The prosecutor will give a description of what the defendant has done along with the various details and expected motivations behind their actions. There’s no involvement of witnesses or evidence at this stage.

The defense is then given a chance to speak, providing their accounts of the event in order to challenge the narrative presented by the government.

Witness Testimony and Questioning

After the defense has made their statement, the prosecutor sets the stage by bringing forward any evidence they have that may strengthen the validity of their statement. They will also introduce any experts, photographs, hard or soft copies of any material for this purpose. In many cases, an eyewitness will also be summoned.

The witness will swear and take an oath to tell the truth. After their statement, the defense may cross-question them to question their credibility or create doubt. Re-examination from the one calling in the witness also takes place to fortify the original statements.

Closing Arguments

In a similar vein to the opening statements, both the prosecutor and the defense are given the stage to present any new information or to put older knowledge in a new light, each trying to strengthen their claims. After this, the case goes to the jury where the judge will decide the legal standards for determining if the defendant is guilty or not.

Jury Deliberation and Verdict

The jury will have a discussion, which can last anywhere from a few weeks to a month, and many areas in the country require the jury to come to a unanimous decision. The jury will then come forward with the decision of either guilty or not guilty. In any other case, it may be considered a mistrial and proceedings will take place from the beginning.

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