criminal trial is when a jury analyzes evidence and decides whether or not the
defendant is guilty. A trial is a way for the government to argue its case
against the defendant in hope of a guilty verdict and conviction. A trial also
gives the defendant a chance to fight against the evidence and try to prove
their innocence. After both the defendant and the prosecution have given their
statements a jury will deliberate and decide whether or not the defendant is guilty.
There are six main phases in a criminal trial: Choosing a jury, opening
statements, witness testimony and cross examination, closing arguments, jury instruction,
and jury deliberation and verdict.
The first step in a criminal trial
is selecting a jury. To select a jury a judge will question a group of people
with questions that relate to the case. The people will also be questioned on
personal matters and life experiences that could also relate to the case. Based
on the persons answers to the questions a judge, the defense and the prosecution
can decide whether or not to include or exclude certain jurors. A person must
be able to be objective to the case in order to become a juror.
Once the jury is chosen, a court
date is set. The trial begins with opening statements from both the defense and
the prosecution. The opening statements are the first thing said at the trial.
One statement comes from the prosecution and the other from the defense. There are
no testimonies that go into this stage. The prosecutor gives their detailed statement
first. The prosecutor states the facts of the case and explains to the jury
what the prosecution will be trying to prove that the defendant did. The
defense follows the prosecutions opening statement with a less detailed statement.
This usually includes a different version of the facts and presents the
defenses they will make against the crime.
After the opening statements the trial
will continue on into the witness testimonies and cross examination. Each side presents
key evidence to the jury to support their case. The prosecution presents
physical evidence along with having eyewitnesses called to the stand. The
defense may also present physical evidence and call upon eyewitnesses to go to
the stand. Once an eyewitness is called to the stand the opposing side will
then get a chance to cross examine the witness. It starts by having a witness
called to the stand where they take an oath to tell the truth. Whomever called
the witness to the stand directly question the witness through a question and
answer technique. Once the original party is done questioning the witness the opposing
side will then get to cross exam the witness in hopes of discrediting the witness’s
testimony. After the cross examination, the original side will then get another
chance to address the witness, which is known as “re-direct examination” in
attempt to repair any questions that may have been made after the cross
examination. After both sides present their evidence and state their case there
is a “rest”. This is when no more evidence can be presented to the jury.
Once both sides have finished presenting
all their evidence to the jury they will then each have a closing argument. It
is a chance for both sides to summarize their cases. This is the final chance
that both sides have to talk to the jury before they deliberate. The prosecutor
will try to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty by summarizing the evidence.
The defendant will make their last case to try to prove themselves as not
guilty either from a lack of evidence or actually having no fault in the crime.
From the closing statements the case
lies in the juries’ hands. The jury is instructed by the judge. Jury instruction
is where a judge gives the jury the set of legal standards it will need to
decide whether the defendant is guilty or not. The judge gives the jury insight
on the legal principles that they will need to arrive at a conclusion. Key concepts
are also described and the crime or crimes are defined. From here the case goes
to the jury.
Following the instruction and insight
from the judge, the jurors then have to arrive at a verdict. The jury comes to
the verdict after a deliberation period. This is the first time the jury is
actually able to discuss the case with one another. In most cases this verdict
must be a unanimous decision on whether the defendant is guilty or not. If the
jury cannot come to a unanimous decision the case will either be dismissed or
there may even be a new trial starting completely over with the jury selection.
This deliberation period can take weeks for the jury to reach a final verdict.
Once the jury comes to a verdict they will then let the judge know and the
judge will announce the final verdict in court.
A criminal trial is important to
criminal justice. A trial is a place where the facts of a case can be
determined and a jury can come to a conclusion on whether a person is guilty of
a crime. For someone accused of a crime it is a chance to prove their innocence.
There is always a chance that police can be wrong or the chance of corruption.
By taking case to trial it gives the accused a chance to make their case in a
nonbiased situation. For the victim of the crime it is a chance for revenge and
I find the criminal trial
particularly interesting. I think it provides a chance for both sides to say what
they want to say. There are many steps that go into a criminal trial. I also
think going through multiple steps to find a non-biased jury is very interesting.
Especially in today’s society when biased is a large part of our country. Many people
have hidden biases they don’t even know that they have. I think by questioning people’s
personal experiences and personal matters it helps bring light to those underlying
biases and it gives the defendant a fair and equal opportunity to state their
side of the case. There are so many steps taken in order for criminal trials to
be fair and equal. I think this is important. There still may be some mistake
made where innocent people are falsely accused or guilty people go free, but
there are many steps taken in order to try to prevent that from happening.